Aftershocks push Papua New Guinea quake toll higher

by Garry Watts March 6, 2018, 1:32
Aftershocks push Papua New Guinea quake toll higher

Several provinces in the highlands of Papua New Guinea felt strong aftershocks.

ExxonMobil Corp. said on Monday it would take about eight weeks to restore production at the Papua New Guinea liquefied natural gas project (LNG), following a powerful quake that hit the country's energy-rich interior a week ago.

Three aftershocks of magnitude greater than 5 shook the mountainous Southern Highlands, about 600 km (370 miles) northwest of the capital Port Moresby early on Monday, the US Geological Survey said, including a shallow magnitude 6 quake.

Compounding the fallout was an announcement Monday that the impoverished country's biggest-ever development-the PNG LNG project operated by U.S. energy giant ExxonMobil-would be offline for up to eight weeks as the quake-hit facilities are repaired.

"Around 143,000 people are affected and 17,000 people have been generally displaced because their homes are either fully or partially damaged and not in a condition to lie in", said Regmi.

Around 7,000 people have been rendered homeless, and 1.47 lakh are in need of food, water and sanitation facilities, the director of the International Red Cross in Papua New Guinea told Reuters.

"The president of that LLG (Local Level Government) area called us that an additional 10 people died last night".

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Energy firm ExxonMobil which had to declare force majeure on exports from its PNG LNG project in the wake of the quake has also donated US$1 million to the humanitarian effort.

Thousands are thought to be trapped in isolated areas after landslides blocked roads to the worst-affected communities, making it all but impossible to deliver urgently needed supplies including food, water and healthcare.

Australia, New Zealand and the Red Cross have all pledged aid to help the recovery process.

"The challenge is road access, it's still not accessible to trucks and four-wheel drives", Regmi said.

Prime Minister Peter O'Neill declared that the closure of gas factory had a "huge impact" on the economy which relies on its natural resources.

ExxonMobil Papua New Guinea managing director Andrew Barry said production at the $19bn project would be restored as quickly as possible.

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