PORT MORESBY, 01 MARCH 2018 (ABC) — The Papua New Guinea Government says there has been extensive damage to the town nearest to the epicentre of a powerful earthquake.

Government officials and Defence Force personnel have flown in to the highlands town of Tari to assess damage from a magnitude-7.5 quake on February 26.


The seeds of an earthquake lie in the tectonic plates that make up the Earth’s surface and on which the continents sit.

The director of the National Disaster Centre, Martin Mose, said the impact was obvious.

“There were buildings or structures that sustained damage to them and the powerlines as well,” he said.

“There were a couple of poles that actually gave way and there were trees being uprooted.”

Mose said people in Tari were terrified by the continuing aftershocks.

“I was on the ground when one hit and I can just see the evidence people start running and screaming everywhere and it shows me that they’re still very much scared of what actually happened,” he said.

Mose said local officials told him about 10 people had died in Tari, but he did not have formal confirmation from health authorities.

Australia is sending a military plane to help with aerial damage surveys while the PNG Government considers how to respond to the disaster.

It has left a technical assessment team in Tari that will try to visit the worst-affected areas.

Some residents in the neighbouring Southern Highlands province are still trying to recover the bodies of family members buried in landslides.

Several houses, one with a family of four inside, were swept into a river of mud when the side of a mountain collapsed.

“Four bodies are inside and we haven’t found them yet,” neighbour Sale Sapnaik said.

Local officials in the Southern Highlands provincial capital, Mendi, said 11 people had died in the town area.

The impact of the quake is spread across a wide area of the mountainous region, with homes, roads and crops damaged.

Exxon-Mobil and Oil Search have suspended their oil and gas operations in Southern Highlands and Hela Provinces and have been evacuating non-essential staff.

Large gold and copper mines in the highlands have also been affected.

Wapu Sonk, the managing director of PNG’s state-owned oil and gas company, Kumul Petroleum, said the quake would affect the PNG economy…..PACNEWS [/restrict]