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PAPUA NEW GUINEA REGION
Mw 7.3 (NEIC)

09/08/02
18:44:23.4
3.271S
142.855E
13 km

Strong earthquake strikes Papua New Guinea North Coast

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September 8, 2002

An earthquake measuring M 7.3 (NEIC) occurred today along the northern coast of Papua New Guinea, Indonesia. Preliminary reports indicate at least three people have been killed and a small tsunami had occurred.

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According to the National Earthquake Information Center (NEIC) the earthquake measured M 7.3 and struck at 18:44 UTC on September, 9, about 520 miles (840 km) northwest of Port Moresby, PNG, and 60 miles (95 km) west-northwest of Wewak, New Guinea, PNG, along the northern coast near Bibiang. See USGS location map. See Expedia map.

The quake was close to the coastal town of Aitape where more than 2,000 people were killed in July 1998 when 50-foot waves charged inland, sweeping the coastline of buildings, people and trees.

The focal point occurred at 31 km deep and the type of fault motion was strike-slip, probably along an east-west plane. See NEIC focal mechanism. Moderate aftershocks continue to shake the island, but there have been no major ones at this time.

It was the ninth M 7.0+ earthquake to strike the planet this year. See list.

Damage Reports
Although the quake struck an impoverish region of the island, preliminary reports indicate at least three people have been killed and several structures have been destroyed.

Posts on shorefront buildings were snapped, causing the overlying structures to crash to the sand. No permanent structures collapsed, but sustained cracked walls and broken windows.

Early reports said a sea wave measuring 2-3 meters surged inland but no major tsunamis have been reported. There were no reports of damage by the sea wave.

Local residents remembering the Aitape earthquake four years ago that killed over 2,000 people from a series of huge tsunamis, ran about screaming "get away from the ocean - tsunami!" and "run into the jungle!".

Liquefaction caused some wharfs to sink into the sand, a bridge was damaged, and utility lines have been disrupted, causing a shortage of fresh water.

Several homes collapsed on the island of Wallis, located just offshore from Wewak, and three other coral atolls, Wallis, Tarawai and Kairiru, were hit by small sea waves as well, sustaining some damage.

Earlier last month, Mount Pago, in West New Britain erupted violently, sending residents scattering and many lost their homes and belongings. The PNG government reports about 4,000 people have been displaced and are receiving aid.

The country is also in the grip of a major drought which threatens to shut down the country's massive Ok Tedi copper mine. The El Nino dry weather pattern has caused the Fly River to dry up, preventing ships from negotiating the crucial transport artery.

Additional information links

Mainstream media news reports:
Report update: 8:13:19 AM, Saturday, September 21, 2002
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