Forty Dead, 100 Missing After Quakes Rattle Papua New Guinea
PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (AP) _ Forty people were killed by mudslides unleashed by powerful earthquakes in northern Papua New Guinea, officials said Friday. As many as 100 people were missing and feared dead.
Whole mountainsides were sheared off and cascaded into villages below, officials said. Police continued to search for missing villagers after the quake and two powerful aftershocks shook the northern provinces Wednesday.
The director-general of the National Disaster and Emergency Services, Leith Anderson, visited the area Thursday with Prime Minister Paias Wingti.
Anderson said several dozen villages - some consisting of just a handful of pole-and-brush huts - were damaged by the quake. Landslides destroyed homes and gardens.
At least 40 villagers were killed in the landslides, Col. Eric Ani, the deputy director of Emergency Services, said Friday. Another 100 were missing and feared dead, he said.
Anderson said the death toll could exceed 100. At least 40 people were injured and up to 1,000 were left homeless, he said.
The first quake struck at midday Wednesday between Madang on the north coast and Goroka, 50 miles inland, and measured 7.0 on the Richter scale, officials said. It was followed by two strong aftershocks, with magnitudes of 6.5 and 6.0.
Communications are always poor in the thick jungle and mountainous area. With power lines, roads and telephone service disrupted, verifying the extent of damage and casualties may take days.
Wednesday’s quake was the 10th measuring over 6 on the Richter scale to hit this year in Papua New Guinea, which is on an earthquake belt.
The Richter scale is a gauge of the strength of an earthquake as measured by the ground motion recorded on a seismograph. An earthquake with a magnitude between 6 and 7 can cause severe damage in populated areas.