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EDITOR IN CHIEF- ABDULLAH BIN SALIM AL SHUEILI

Major quake cuts communications, halts oil and gas operations in PNG

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WELLINGTON/MELBOURNE: At least one company began evacuating non-essential personnel after a powerful 7.5 magnitude earthquake hit Papua New Guinea’s energy-rich interior on Monday, causing landslides, damaging buildings and closing oil and gas operations.


The tremor hit in the rugged, heavily forested Southern Highlands about 560 km northwest of the capital, Port Moresby, at around 3.45 am local time (1545 GMT Sunday), according to the US Geological Survey (USGS).


A spokesman at Papua New Guinea’s National Disaster Centre said by telephone the affected area was very remote and the agency could not properly assess damage until communication was re-established.


He said there were no confirmed casualties, although the International Red Cross (IRC) in Papua New Guinea said some reports indicated there were “fears of human casualties”.


“It’s a very serious all across the Southern Highlands and also all over the western highlands. People are definitely very frightened,” Udaya Regmi, the head of the IRC in Papua New Guinea, said by telephone from Port Moresby.


The PNG government also said it had sent disaster assessment teams. At least 13 aftershocks with a magnitude of 5.0 or more rattled the area throughout the day, according to USGS data, but no tsunami warnings were issued. — Reuters


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