Port Moresby: A magnitude 7.6 earthquake shook Papua New Guinea on Sunday, damaging buildings and triggering landslides, killing at least one person and seriously injuring several more.
Residents of northern towns near the epicenter reported violent tremors in the morning.
MP Kessie Sawan reported that one person died after being buried in a landslide in the remote mountain village of Matko, and several others were airlifted to hospital with serious injuries.
She said villages along the Finisterre Mountains and some coastal areas would suffer “heavy damage” and “injuries and deaths” could increase.
“People and homes were buried and destroyed,” she said.
In the eastern highlands town of Goroka, images showed the window shades falling from the cracked walls of the local university.
“It was very strong,” Hivi Apokole, a worker at the Jais Abeng Resort near Madang, told AFP. “Everything was like sitting on the ocean, just floating.”
The quake was felt as far as about 300 miles (480 kilometers) from the capital, Port Moresby.
The U.S. Geological Survey initially issued a tsunami warning for nearby coastal areas, but has since said the threat “has passed.”
Nevertheless, terrified locals in coastal areas reported a sudden drop in sea levels and fled to higher ground.
The nation’s leader, James Marape, urged people to proceed cautiously to higher ground.
He said he was very worried about a “massive” earthquake.
Marape added that the extent of the damage and injuries were still unknown, and that several areas were affected.
“National and local disaster management agencies and leaders are urged to assess the damage and injuries to people and respond as soon as possible.”
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the epicenter was about 67 kilometers from the town of Kainantu, at a depth of 61 kilometers (38 miles).
Because Papua New Guinea is located in the Pacific “Ring of Fire”, earthquakes are frequent.
In neighboring Indonesia, a magnitude 9.1 earthquake triggered a tsunami in 2004 that killed 220,000 people across the region, including about 170,000 in Indonesia.
Earlier Sunday, the U.S. Geological Survey also reported two strong earthquakes in the Mentawai Islands off Indonesia’s west coast of Sumatra.
A magnitude 6.0 earthquake occurred at approximately 6:10 AM local time (2310 GMT) at a depth of 20 kilometers, followed shortly after by a magnitude 5.7 earthquake at a shallow depth of 10 kilometers.
There were no immediate reports of casualties or damage, but the quake forced residents of the Mentawai Islands to flee to shelters set up last week following another quake.
An AFP journalist said the quake was also felt in the city of Padang, the capital of West Sumatra province, with residents leaving their homes after buildings shook.