Further destruction in PNG’s Hela after latest major earthquake

A significant aftershock in Papua New Guinea’s Highlands has caused further devastation in Hela Province, according to reports emerging from the region.

The 6.3 magnitude earthquake struck late this afternoon, local time, at a depth of 10 kilometres, the United States Geological Survey said. It struck in Western Province, near the border with Hela.

Hela was devastated by the magnitude 7.5 earthquake which strck on 26 February, killing 125 people and leaving thousands homeless.

The region has been struggling in the earthquake’s aftermath, with aid slow to trickle in and tribal fighting seizing the provincial capital, Tari, forcing the military to take over the hospital after doctors fled.

Moses Komengi is a Tari resident who is currently in Port Moresby, he said his family phoned him to tell him of the latest devastation.

Tari - PNG  earthquake

Tari had already been devastated by February’s earthquake. Photo: Sokere Hali/Facebook

“I’m hearing that all our houses that were half damanged are all gone down and more destruction has happened,” he said in a phone interview on Saturday night. “All my children they rang me that they cannot live more in our permanent house because all the houses are destroyed.”

Read more:  Nikki Haley calls Human Rights Council UN's 'greatest failure' in bid to justify US exit

“I’m driving with my brother here, and he’s from Korouba. He’s hearing that one of his relatives – a young girl – has been crushed by the house,” adding that he understood more people could have been killed in Tari.

The houses that weren’t completely destroyed by February’s earthquake had now been finished off, Mr Komengi said he was told by relatives, and the town, where the response had already been significantly hampered, had been taken back to square one.

“This will add on to the worst disaster and tribal fights and I don’t know how people will cope with this,” he said.

Mr Komengi said he had originally planned to return to Hela on Sunday, but was told the airport runway had been split in the middle.

“It’s finished us off,” he said. /radionz