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Papua New Guinea earthquake death toll rises to 7

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The death toll from a powerful earthquake that struck Papua New Guinea has risen to seven, police said on Monday.

A 7.6-magnitude earthquake was recorded in the Markham Valley Sunday morning, followed by a 5.0-magnitude earthquake about 70 kilometers (45 miles) north an hour later, according to a statement from Police Commissioner David Manning.

The US Geological Survey said the first quake struck 90 km below the surface near the Australian Plate at around 9.46 am on Sunday (2346 GMT Saturday).

According to Manning, the second tremor was “at a depth of 101 kilometers (63 miles) underground.”

“The greatest damage…was in the provinces of Morobi, Eastern Highlands and Madang,” he said.

“The tremors caused damage to buildings and public roads in these governorates, and a number of landslides occurred,” he added.

Six of the seven deaths occurred in Morobi province, while one person died in Madang, according to the statement.

The earthquake was felt throughout the island nation, including the capital, Port Moresby.

A UN report said the Ramu Hydropower Plant – the country’s largest dam near Kainanto in the Eastern Highlands province – was also damaged, leading to a complete outage in the system across the highland provinces, Madang and Morob.

“Overall, there have been reports of damage to the regional power grid, internet cables, roads and highways,” Manning said.

The buildings of Goroka University in the Eastern Highlands province were damaged and there were reports of injuries among students, the official said.

He added, “This was a large earthquake, however, it occurred at a depth below ground level, meaning that the damage was less than if the epicenter was closer to the surface.”

Manning said disaster management and other government agencies “enabled a coordinated and immediate response.”

He pointed out that “aerial reconnaissance operations are underway to identify landslides in remote and rural areas.”

Prime Minister James Marab emphasized that the government “stands ready to help, but needs a full damage report”.

“I know that telecommunications and electricity have also been affected in some parts of the country, and I assure citizens in the affected areas that we are ready to address all of this,” he said at a news conference on Sunday.

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