Strong earthquake strikes PNG

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A major 7.


0-magnitude earthquake struck a remote mountainous region of the Pacific nation of Papua New Guinea on Thursday, seismologists said, causing panic but no initial damage or injuries.

The quake hit a sparsely populated area of the island of New Britain at 8:01am (0801 AEST) at a depth of 54km, the US Geological Survey (USGS) and the Papua New Guinea Earthquake Office said.

“We are not aware of any damage at this point, but it was pretty strongly felt in the town of Kimbe and on other parts of the island, people are really shaken up,” seismologist Lawrence Anton of the PNG Earthquake Office told AFP.

The quake hit about 20km from the centre of a 7.3-magnitude earthquake that hit the region in July.

The epicentre of the latest quake was 145km east of Kandrian, on New Britain, and 570km east of Port Moresby, the capital of Papua New Guinea.

But while the quake rattled the 20,000-strong town of Kimbe, which lies about 80km from the epicentre, as well as villages in the region, few people live in the area around the epicentre, Anton said.

“A quake of this magnitude could cause quite sizeable damage, but only in populated areas immediately around it, so we do not expect major damage or injuries,” Geoscience Australia duty seismologist Robbie Morris said.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, based in Hawaii, said there was no threat of a widespread destructive tsunami as a result of the quake, which was not on the seabed.

Papua New Guinea, which is mired in poverty despite rich mineral deposits, sits on the so-called “Pacific Ring of Fire”, a hotspot for seismic activity due to friction between tectonic plates.