Quake death toll at 55 as aftershock hits Papua New Guinea

Quake death toll at 55 as aftershock hits Papua New Guinea

A team of six emergency experts from the United Nations office for the co-ordination of humanitarian affairs has been deployed to Papua New Guinea to assist the Government in response to the quake disaster efforts in the Highlands.

A 6.7 magnitude quake struck Papua New Guinea just after midnight local time Wednesday morning, jarring an area that's still recovering from a 7.5 tremor in late February.

Local media outlets on Tuesday reported the death toll from the original quake had risen to 75, after government officials said previously that 55 people had been killed.

Johnny Blades has more.

Aid agencies have said almost 150,000 people remain in urgent need of emergency supplies.

William Bando, the administrator of Hela Province, said initial reports put the death toll from the aftershock at 18.

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The team will assist the PNG National Disaster Centre in assessments, response coordination, logistics and information management in the worst affected areas especially in Hela and Southern Highlands provinces.

"Mothers and children are so traumatized. Every little movement scares them", said Komengi.

Drinking water supplies are also still under threat in many areas, as the quake damaged water infrastructure and mudslides contaminated other sources.

The first casualty assessment comes as authorities and aid workers struggle to reach the rugged highlands area to assess the extent of the damage of the first natural disaster on February 26 and deliver aid to stricken locals.

The International Red Cross warned the situation could deteriorate if heavy rains hit the region. "A big downpour could bring landslides in hillsides already destabilized by the quake, cause floods and contaminate water", said Udaya Regmi, Director the International Red Cross in Papua New Guinea.

"Around 1,43,000 people are affected and 17,000 people have been generally displaced because their homes are either fully or partially damaged and not in a condition to live in". As well, road infrastructure was damaged during the event, making it harder for aid to reach more remote areas.

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