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“Communications Are Down”: Massive 7.5M Quake Cripples Papua New Guinea

Courtesy of ZeroHedge. View original post here.

Several major oil and gas operators were forced to shutter operations on Monday after a powerful 7.5 magnitude earthquake rattled Papua New Guinea’s energy-rich interior, causing landslides and cutting off communications, per Reuters. The tremor hit in the rugged, heavily forested Southern Highlands about 350 miles northwest of Port Moresby at around 3:45 am local time (1545 GMT Sunday), according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).

Quake

No Casualties

As of the latest report, there were no confirmed casualties, although the International Red Cross said some reports indicated there were “fears of human casualties.”

“It’s a very serious all across the Southern Highlands and also all over the western highlands. People are definitely very frightened,” Udaya Regmi, the head of the IRC in Papua New Guinea, said by telephone from Port Moresby.

The PNG government also said it had sent disaster assessment teams. At least 13 aftershocks with a magnitude of 5.0 or more rattled the area throughout the day, according to USGS data. So far, no tsunami warnings have been issued.

“The Papua New Guinea Defense Force has also been mobilized to assist with the assessment and the delivery of assistance to affected people as well as the restoration of services and infrastructure,” Isaac Lupari, the chief secretary to the government, said in a statement.

Energy Disruptions

ExxonMobil said it had shut its Hides gas conditioning plant and that it believed administration buildings, living quarters and a mess hall had been damaged. It also said it had suspended flights into the nearby Komo airfield until the runway could be surveyed.

“Due to the damage to the Hides camp quarters and continuing aftershocks, ExxonMobil PNG is putting plans in place to evacuate non-essential staff,” the company said in an emailed statement.

Gas is processed at Hides and transported via a 435-mile pipeline that feeds a liquefied natural gas plant near Port Moresby for shipping.

Quake

PNG oil and gas explorer Oil Search has also shuttered production in the quake-affected area.

The giant Grasberg copper mine operated by the Indonesian unit of Freeport McMoRan in neighboring Papua province was not affected, a Jakarta-based spokesman said.

Several aftershocks caused panic in Jayapura, the capital of Indonesian Papua, Indonesia’s disaster mitigation agency said in a statement, but there were no reports of casualties or damage there.

The IRC’s Regmi said communications were down in Tari, one of the larger settlements near the quake’s epicenter, and that landslides had cut roads.

Seismic

Several other aid and missionary agencies said poor communications in the area made damage and injury assessment difficult.

“The bush structures that they build tend to handle earthquakes extremely well,” Christian missionary Brandon Buser said after contacting several remote villages by shortwave radio.

Earthquakes are common in Papua New Guinea, which sits on the Pacific’s famous “Ring of Fire.”

“This is the Papuan fold-and-thrust belt, so it’s a typical movement of faults in that region, but it’s big,” said Chris McKee, acting director of the Geohazards Management Division in Port Moresby. Part of PNG’s northern coast was devastated in 1998 by a tsunami, generated by a 7.0 quake, which killed about 2,200 people.

Meanwhile, back in the US, Bay Area residents are once again bracing for the “Big One” – a massive earthquake along the San Andreas fault – after swarms of earthquakes have rocked the area in recent days.


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