A magnitude 7.5 earthquake occurred at 03:44 am on Monday (26 February) in the Southern Highlands region, about 30km South of Tari and about 40km North-West of Lake Kutubu.
Governor for Hela Province, Philip Undialu, told this newsroom that an unconfirmed number of people have been injured while communication with authorities in Hela has been lost.
Undialu said health and education infrastructure have also been damaged and the province is looking at a temporary shutdown of vital services until further notice.
The governor met with Prime Minister Peter O’Neill yesterday evening to have a disaster team put together comprising of government delegates.
They will set out on a fact finding mission to determine which infrastructure should be temporarily maintained for services to continue and what needs to be done immediately to assist the rural communities.
Undialu will be taking the first flight into the province today to assess the damage in the LNG province.
Meantime, the Port Moresby Geophysical Observatory says the earthquake occurred as a result of fault movements in the Papuan Fold & Thrust Belt, which runs parallel to the axial mountain range of PNG.
“There is potential for significant damage from this earthquake because of the large magnitude and shallow depth of the event,” says the PMGO.
“A number of aftershocks have occurred, and more are likely in the coming days.
“The largest of the aftershocks so far is M5.5.”
However, the PMGO says there is little possibility that this earthquake would have generated a tsunami.
(Governor for Hela Province, Philip Undialu)