At least 30 people were killed after a 7.6-magnitude earthquake struck Papua New Guinea’s mountainous interior region. The quake hit the remote, heavily forested provinces of the Southern Highlands and Hela early on Monday, Papua New Guinea’s Post Courier reported.
With all communication and transport lines down, there was no confirmation yet about the actual number of casualties. At least 300 people were injured, and the earthquake triggered landslides and sinkholes.
Hela governor Philip Undialu, who was in the capital Port Moresby, told The National newspaper the damage was widespread. “The scale of damage, from information we are getting from the ground, is quite extensive,” he said, adding that there were 19 landslides between Mendi and the town of Mount Hagen, all areas hit by the quake.
Meanwhile, as a safety precaution, energy giant ExxonMobil Corp has shut its liquefied natural gas plant in Papua New Guinea, Reuters reported. The company said it has not been able to assess damage to the facilities that feed the LNG plant. Natural gas is the country’s biggest export earner.
“Communications continue to be one of the most significant challenges,” ExxonMobil told Reuters in an email. The company said the Komo airfield, which serves its gas production and processing operations, has also been shut.
Miners Barrick Gold Corp and Ok Tedi Mining also reported damage to infrastructure. Australian resources company Oil Search said its operations in the area were being shut down for damage assessment, AFP reported.
Earthquakes are common in Papua New Guinea, which sits on the Pacific Ring of Fire, a hotspot for seismic activity.