125 confirmed dead and 35,000 displaced by PNG quake

Photo: Supplied/ PNG Government

Police in Papua New Guinea have confirmed the deaths of 125 people following the 7.5 magnitude earthquake that hit the Highlands on 26 February.

A police statement also confirms the displacement of 35,000 people across the two provinces understood to be the worst affected, Hela and Southern Highlands.

PNG Police said two relief operations command centres had been set up to collect reports and co-ordinate operations, one in Hela’s capital Tari and the other in Mendi, Southern Highlands.

In the Southern Highlands Province 45 people died and 15,000 displaced with the worst affected areas being Mendi, Karins, Lai Valley, Kandep, Pangia and Nipa/Kutubu.

In neighbouring Hela Province 80 were confirmed dead with 20,000 people displaced from their homes, 16,000 of whom are from the Komo area, with Magarima, Tari, Koroba and Mt Bosavai areas also being affected.

Police expected the death toll from the earthquake, its aftershocks and landslides, to rise once everybody had been accounted for.

Some main access roads had been cleared and work is continuing on other roads that remain blocked by major landslips.

PNG Prime MInister Peter O'Neill consoles a woman in earthquake-affected Hela province.

PNG Prime MInister Peter O’Neill consoles a woman in earthquake-affected Hela province. Photo: PNG PM Media Office

Meanwhile, schools and health centres in Hela and Southern Highlands sustained significant damage. Most schools in the two provinces remain closed.

The Southern Highlands police commander and deputy chairman of its disaster committee, Joseph Tondop, said that assessment reports coming in depicted extensive damage.

“Especially to public infrastructures like roads, bridges, public schools, hospital facilities, especially the rural health centres and health posts have been severely damaged and affected from basically the whole of Southern Highlands province.”

Police said they were managing security with help from the PNG defence force and many of the displaced people are now staying in several care centres set up in the worst affected areas to provide basic relief from the disaster.

Australian and NZ aid flown to PNG Highlands

Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade says its RAAF C-130 aircraft is making regular flights into quake affected regions of Papua New Guinea carrying 119 tonnes of relief supplies.

The aid flights have been to both Moro in Southern Highlands and Mt Hagen in Western Highlands Province.

Australian-funded humanitarian supplies from stores in Lae, Port Moresby and Brisbane have been delivered, including tarpaulins, water containers and bed mats.

The C-130 has also helped transport PNG Government supplies into the affected region, including food and medical supplies, and UN agencies’ aid.

Australia said it is helping the PNG Government manage onward distribution of supplies from the Moro and Mt Hagen staging points with three CH47 Chinook helicopters and personnel assisting.

Meanwhile, the New Zealand Defence Force has delivered 18 tonnes of aid on two C-130 Hercules aircraft, and airlifted 60 tonnes of food, water and medical supplies from Port Moresby to Moro and Mount Hagen in the quake-damaged Highlands region. /radionz