Thursday, December 15, 2011

Powerful quake strikes near Lae

Source: The National, Thursday 15th December 2011
A powerful 7.3-magnitude earthquake struck near Lae yesterday afternoon but no tsunami warnings were issued.
The quake struck 89km southwest of Lae, at a depth of 121km, at about 3.04pm and was also felt strongly in Wau and moderately in Port Moresby, the geophysical observatory said.
In parts of Port Moresby, workers evacuated buildings immediately as a precaution.
Others were too stunned to do anything while one shop in Boroko had customers fleeing with clothes off the shop’s racks.
Meanwhile, journalists from all around the world called The National in Lae to seek updates, Bulolo police station commander Fred Lelesi reported no major damage within the Wau and Bulolo townships except for injury to two men in a settlement and the bursting of a water tank.
He is expecting reports from Waria and Wau rural sub-districts to be filed today.
Lelesi said the Nambawan Supasto owned by the PNG Forest Products was closed for about an hour when goods were thrown off shelves.
In Lae, the city was shaken for about a minute. Buildings at Top Town shook and coconut palms swayed.
The quake, originally rated as 7.3-magnitude, wrecked displays at Lae’s Foodmart shop and caused some damage to the ceiling, but “touch wood, nothing serious”, manager Albert Martinez told Reu­ters news agency.
Dolly Kinibo, a receptionist at the Lae International Hotel, told the agency it was “very big”.
“It lasted for two to three minutes. The whole building moved. The Christmas tree moved, we all moved, people are very shaken.
“There are no reports of injuries or damage, but our managers are checking,” she said.
“It was a weird waltz. And the earth I was standing on moved like a liquid stage,” a young woman, Angal Jalamu said. “I went dizzy.”
Although the sea in the Huon Gulf looked like it had ebbed raising fears of a tsunami, seashore residents at Voco Point calmed when they searched the internet for warnings and found none.
Lay and clergymen at Ampo Lutheran church headquarters, where more than 20 members of the church council were meeting to finalise agendas for the synod in Goroka in January, ran out of the building.
The earthquake was also felt in Bougainville, Goroka and Mt Hagen.
The geophysical observatory said the earthquake occurred as a result of the convergent motions of the Solomons and Australian plates.
Clive Collins, a seismologist for Geoscience Australia, told AFP the quake was unlikely to trigger a tsunami.
“That’s the assessment on the basis that it’s about 20km inshore and also it’s about 120km deep and that’s too deep really to cause any tsunami problems.”
But he said landslides could be a problem in the mountainous area.
Residents of Wau, about 20km from the epicentre, told AFP news agency that buildings and the ground had shaken, but there was no major destruction evident.
Papua New Guinea sits atop the seismically active “Pacific Ring of Fire”.

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