Papua New Guinea has been struck by the second earthquake in a week, leading to devastation of infrastructure and a number of fatalities within the Commonwealth country.
The first earthquake struck Papua New Guinea’s remote highlands in Enga province at a magnitude of 7.5 on February 26, 2018.
Reports say between 70-75 people are believed to have died, with hundreds more injured and trapped in their remote home villages.
Landslides and damaged infrastructure have prevented aid and urgent supplies from reaching the worst-affected communities in isolated areas, with tens of thousands currently without food, homes or services.
Aftershocks have continued to shake the region and impede rescue efforts, along with bad weather and disrupted communication lines, with a state of emergency declared.
Papua New Guinea’s government and Prime Minister Peter O’Neill have been coordinating aid efforts with national and local emergency services, and the Red Cross, New Zealand and Australia are assisting with the recovery response.
On March 7, a second 6.7 magnitude earthquake struck just 31km southwest of the epicentre of the first, leaving 18 dead and causing further complications in getting aid to the 147,000 in need.
As a result, the international aid response has been stepped up, with Australia deploying three helicopters to deliver aid and New Zealand sending a second military plan to distribute hygiene kits, tarpaulins and medical equipment.
Earthquakes are common in Papua New Guinea, as it sits on the Pacific `Ring of Fire’, a hotspot for seismic activity.
A statement by the Commonwealth Secretariat on March 6, before the second earthquake occurred, read: “Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland has expressed her solidarity and concern at the devastation and loss of life caused by last week’s 7.5 magnitude earthquake in Papua New Guinea’s remote highlands.
“In extending her sympathy to the people and Government of Papua New Guinea, the Secretary-General said her heart went out to those who have lost loved ones, and to all who have been directly affected in other ways, including by being displaced or made homeless.”
Following the first earthquake, Darian Clark of the Australian High Commission in Papua New Guinea, said: "This was the biggest earthquake in 100 years and it spread 150km across the fault line.
"A number of urban settlements, as well as villages, have been affected, many in the form of landslides and landslips, which means that roads have been cut off, water contaminated and power knocked out."