NZ steps up aid to Papua New Guinea as earthquake death toll feared to top 100

A second RNZAF Hercules aircraft carrying emergency relief supplies will depart for Papua New Guinea tomorrow following the deadly 7.5 magnitude earthquake last week. 

At least 55 people have been confirmed dead and authorities fear the toll could exceed 100 from the powerful earthquake in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea on Monday last week that destroyed homes, triggered landslides and halted work at four oil and gas fields.

Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters says the C-130 Hercules will carry mother and infant kits, family hygiene kits and tarpaulins. 

While in PNG the Hercules will assist with the delivery of relief items to the affected Highlands region in partnership with Papua New Guinean authorities and other development partners. 

"Sadly a number of people have lost their lives during this earthquake and New Zealand stands ready to help the people and Government of Papua New Guinea in the best way we can," Mr Peters said.

The 7.5 magnitude quake killed dozens of people and caused widespread damage. Source: Breakfast

Southern Highlands Governor William Powi told The Associated Press that people were feeling traumatised from the disaster and ongoing aftershocks. 

The latest large tremor was a magnitude 6.7 quake that struck just after midnight today local time, the strongest shake since last Monday's deadly magnitude 7.5 quake 

The central region where the quake struck is remote and undeveloped, and assessments about the scale of the damage and injuries have been slow to filter out. 

Mr Powi said he didn't know if the latest aftershock had caused more damage or injuries, but he said it had added to the distress people were feeling.

"It is beyond the capacity of the provincial government to cope with the magnitude of destruction and devastation," Mr Powi said. "Our people are traumatised and finding it difficult to cope."

He said provincial authorities were trying to prioritise the greatest needs by getting people with severe injuries to medical centres and providing water and medicine. He said help from abroad and from local aid agencies was slowly coming in.

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

Mr Powi said 39 people had died in his province after families had been crushed by their collapsing homes or buried by landslides during last week's earthquake. He said death reports were still coming in from remote places, and he feared the death toll would rise to over 100.

A spokeswoman at the National Disaster Centre said the official death toll is currently estimated at between 55 and 75 although they don't yet have firm numbers.

The US Geological Survey said today's quake was centered 112 kilometres southwest of Porgera at a shallow depth of 10 kilometres. Ten aftershocks in the hours since ranged between magnitude 4.7 and magnitude 5.2.

The 7.5 magnitude quake rocked the country’s remote highlands on Monday. Source: Breakfast