“I have been briefed by our team at the National Command Centre that has been stood up at Morauta Haus”, said Police Commissioner, David Manning.
“At 9:46 morning, Sunday 11th September, a 7.6 magnitude earthquake struck in the Markham Valley, reported by the US Geological Society to be at a depth of 90 kilometres.
“A second 5.0 magnitude earthquake was recorded at 10:42 occurring 70 kilometres north of the original tremor, at a depth of 101 kilometres underground.
“The most significant damage reported to date has been in districts of Morobe, Eastern Highlands and Madang provinces.
“The tremors caused damage to buildings and public roads in these provinces, and a number of landslides were triggered.
“Sadly, seven people have been confirmed dead as a result of these landslides. Three in Kabwum District and three in Wau Town, Morobe Province, and one in Rai Coast, Madang Province.
“I offer our condolences to the families of those who have died in these tragic circumstances.
“This was a significant earthquake, however it occurred deep below ground level and this meant damage was less than if the epicentre had been closer to the surface.
“To put this into perspective:
· The Markham Valley earthquake was similar in size to the 2018 Highlands Earthquake;
· The difference being that the 2018 Highlands earthquake was 23 kilometres underground, whereas the Markham Valley earthquake was 90 kilometres below the surface.
“The immediate response that was directed by the Prime Minister was the standing-up of the National Command Centre at Morauta Haus.
“The National Command Centre is staffed by specialist personnel from Police, Defence and other relevant Government agencies. Their immediate task of was to identify affected district communities in the affected provinces, and then ascertain the type of response required and deploy this immediate support.
“These actions and the ongoing exchange of information the provincial disaster office and other government agencies has enabled a coordinated and immediate response.
“Aerial reconnaissance is ongoing to identify landslides in remote and rural areas.
“The COVID-19 hotline has been tasked to receive details from the public of any damage for relay to the National Disaster and Emergency Services, the National Command Centre and provincial authorities. Calls to the hotline number, 1 800 200, have been coming in with information to be provided to relevant agencies, and seeking information on the current response situation.
“I will provide you with a summary of the information we have currently from each of the three affected provinces.
“Overall, there have been reports of damage to the regional power grid, internet cables, and roads and highways.
“Damage to the Ramu hydropower station infrastructure has resulted in serious system outages across the Highlands, Madang, and Morobe and this is being assessed by engineers at the current time.
“PNG DataCo has reported disruptions to services that have disrupted operations of the Kumul Submarine Cable Network express link between Port Moresby and Madang, and the PPC-1 cable between Madang and Sydney. This is affecting customers in Momase, the Highlands and New Guinea Islands.
“No damage has been reported to aviation infrastructure and regional commercial airports remain operational.
In Morobe Province:
· The most significant damage was in Kabwum District, where three deaths have been reported and an unknown number of injuries. Medical evacuations have taken place from Kabwum;· Landslides have been identified in Bulolo, Wau and Boana, and damage was sustained by houses and other infrastructures in these areas;
· Damage was identified on several public roads and highways;
· Damage was also sustained by the Muya Power Plant infrastructure causing supply outages; and,
· Minor damage was reported in the Lae Metro area to buildings and roads.
In Eastern Highlands Province:
· There has been damage to public and private infrastructure. This includes cracks appearing in buildings at the University of Goroka male dormitory and other tall structures inside the campus;
· There are reports of injuries to students on the campus and they have been admitted to hospital. Further details on these injuries are being collated;
· Cracks have been reported on the bridge just after Kainantu towards Yonki, and minor cracks have occurred in the road to Yonki;
· Two minor landslips occurred near kolwara close to the fish market area;
· Engineers are undertaking assessments on damage to Yonki Dam infrastructure that has resulted in power outrage in most part of the Eastern Highlands Province;
· A major land slide noted at Kassam Pass where a 25-seater bus windscreen was damaged, fortunately passengers escaped unhurt from the vehicle; and,
· The Kainantu Mine reported that there was damage to its’ underground operations or its’ other site infrastructures.
In Madang Province:
· One death has been reported in the Rai Coast, with medical evacuations taking place from Nankina.
· There have been reports of building damage at New Town with 13 people injured at Fox Nest House;
· The Government Store compound reported that 23 semi-permanent houses were damaged;
· 22 semi-permanent houses at the Wagol settlement were damaged;
· At the DCA Compound, one permanent building and 76 semi-permanent houses were damaged with one report of a person injured;
· Damage to the Yonki Hydropower Station is being assessed;
· The North Coast highway into Madang Town has been affected with reports of damage to buildings, power lines and public roads;
· Due to power blackouts, reports from Rai Coast, Usino Bundi and other rural stations, damage reports are still being collated and provided to the National Command Centre.
“It is now 24 hours since the initial earthquake struck and response operations are underway and being strengthened.
“There remains a significant risk of aftershocks, so our people must be vigilant and think of the safety of their families and communities above all else. This means avoiding areas where there is the potential for landslides and coastal areas that could be at risk of tsunamis.
“The Northern Divisional Commander and his Provincial Police Commanders (PPCs) are maintaining round the clock operations to:
· Identify all areas and communities affected by the earthquake in their respective districts, and facilitate immediate requirements for medical support and the delivery of urgent suppose.
· The National Command Centre is working with the Provincial Disaster Office, provincial administrations, and other relevant stakeholders including Churches and NGOs to maximise our collective response actions.
· All efforts are being undertaken to facilitate immediate responses to areas requiring support, particularly medial support;
· Our country has faced many similar potential disasters, and through the lead of the National Disaster and Emergency Services with the support of Police, Defence and other relevant agencies, we have plans in place that were enacted immediately after the earthquake occurred in the Markham Valley;
· But we must all maintain vigilance for the ongoing risk of aftershocks – I cannot stress this enough.
“The National Command Centre will continue to engage with all stakeholders and ensure emergency support is provided where it is needed.
“I will continue to brief the Prime Minister on current operations, and there will be the ongoing release of public information.
“I urge our people not to be mislead by false information that circulates on social media, and rely on news information that is verified by government agencies.
“We are a strong and resilient people in Papua New Guinea, and our people stand tall when our communities are threatened by potential national disasters.”