Papua New Guinea Earthquake: Over 100 feared dead

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Damage caused by an earthquake in Papua New Guinea is seen in this handout image released March 7, 2018. MAF International/Handout via REUTERS.

More than a hundred people in are feared to have been killed following the Papua New Guinea earthquake with a magnitude 7.5 and powerful aftershocks that struck the country’s mountainous region.

The nation was hit with the powerful quake on Feb. 26, and it was followed by very strong aftershocks. The latest, a 6.7 magnitude quake, was the strongest aftershock to hit the country.

At least 55 people have been confirmed dead, while authorities fear that the death toll could exceed 100. The quakes have destroyed homes and triggered landslides, while work on four oil and gas fields have been shut down.

“Tragically, the Highlands Earthquake has already claimed the lives of an estimated more than 100 Papua New Guineans, with many more still missing and thousands of people injured,” said Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O’Neill in a statement.

The head of state, who flew over some of the worst-hit areas Wednesday, said the damage could take months and years to be repaired. “There will be no quick fix,” he said.

The central region of Papua New Guinea that was hit by the strong quakes are remote and largely undeveloped, so assessing the damage and casualties caused by the tremors could take some time to trickle out.

The government is having a tough time reaching some of the remote areas that were affected by the quakes due to landslides and collapsed roads. However, the neighboring nations of Australia and New Zealand have sent helicopters and planes to help deliver food and supplies to remote regions.

“It is beyond the capacity of the provincial government to cope with the magnitude of destruction and devastation,” said Southern Highlands governor William Powi. “Our people are traumatized and finding it difficult to cope.”

“It’s a mammoth task,” he added. “Most of the feeder roads are washed away or covered with landslips. People’s livelihoods are devastated, their personal property is gone.”