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Powerful 7.0-magnitude earthquake hits Papua New Guinea

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The epicenter of the earthquake (Credit: Google)

A powerful earthquake measuring 7.0 has struck Papua New Guinea, seismologists and residents say. Homes were destroyed near the epicenter but only few details were immediately available.

The earthquake, which struck at 3:04 a.m. local time on Monday, was centered in Chambri Lake, about 37 kilometers east of Ambunti or 96 kilometers southwest of Wewak, the capital of East Sepik province.

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) put the earthquake’s magnitude at 7.0, a significant downgrade from earlier estimates of 7.3 and 7.9. It struck about 62 kilometers below the surface, making it a fairly deep earthquake.

“Based on all available data, a destructive Pacific-wide tsunami is not expected,” the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said in a statement.

Mathew Moihoi, the acting assistant director of the Port Moresby Geophysical Observatory, told AP that some buildings and homes near the epicenter were destroyed. Disaster relief workers are trying to reach the area to determine the scale of the impact.

The USGS estimated that up to 4.5 million people could have felt the quake, including 466,000 people who may have felt “strong” to “very strong” shaking. It will likely take days to determine the extent of the damage because of the region’s remoteness and limited communication.

A resident in Southern Highland province, about 249 kilometers from the epicenter, described the shaking as “strong” and said it lasted about 45 seconds.

Earthquakes in the mountainous nation, which is on the ‘Pacific Ring of Fire’, do rarely cause major damage because many structures in the region are light and flexible. This allows them to bend, rather than snap, when a major earthquake occurs.

However, earthquakes in Papua New Guinea are capable of causing major landslides.

A 7.6-magnitude earthquake hit Papua New Guinea in September 2022, killing at least 21 people and injuring dozens more. In 2018, a series of strong earthquakes hit the country, killing at least 200 people. Many deaths were caused by landslides.

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