Children 'traumatised' as fresh quake in Papua New Guinea kills at least 18

7 March 2018, 10:12

A 6.7-magnitude earthquake has struck Papua New Guinea - days after a larger quake killed dozens.

Officials in the Pacific Ocean nation said at least 18 people were killed when the aftershock in the country's highlands struck just after midnight on Wednesday.

Last Monday, a 7.5-magnitude earthquake hit the island, with the epicentre just 19 miles (31km) away from the latest tremor.

The area of Hides - described by one official as a "big village with many people" - was feared to be the hardest hit, but it is not yet known whether there have been any casualties there.

The initial quake killed at least 55 people as it flattened villages and triggered landslides. On Tuesday, local media outlets reported this number has risen to 75.

A spokeswoman at Papua New Guinea's National Disaster Centre said authorities had not yet finalised a casualty report following Wednesday's tremor - the strongest in a series of aftershocks.

Aid workers had already been struggling to reach remote areas in the mostly rural country where only 18% live in urban centres.

The latest earthquake's epicentre is in a resource-rich region about 370 miles (600km) north west of the capital Port Moresby.

Roads further damaged by the new quake have severely complicated efforts to provide emergency supplies to nearly 150,000 people.

James Komengi, a United Church project officer based in the province where the epicentre of the quake was, said: "Mothers and children are so traumatised. Even my own children are refusing to sleep in our house.

"Every little movement scares them."

There are growing concerns about access to safe drinking water after tremors destroyed water tanks and landslides poured mud into natural sources.

The rainy season is also a concern as the International Red Cross warned the situation could worsen further if heavy downpours hit.

Udaya Regmi, director of the International Red Cross in Papua New Guinea, said: "We are anxious to reach communities while there is a lull in what is usually a season of heavy rain.

"A big downpour could bring landslides in hillsides already destabilised by the earthquake, cause floods and contaminate water."

The Red Cross said its initial assessments suggest 143,000 people affected, with an estimated 500 people injured and 17,000 people displaced from their homes.

Health facilities, even in more accessible parts of the country, have been damaged.

Australia and New Zealand are increasing aid to Papua New Guinea following the latest aftershock - deploying medical equipment, hygiene kits and tarpaulins using helicopters and military planes.