Aitape folks flee in fear of tsunami after 6.8 quake rocks north coast

National, Normal

The National, Thursday 18th April 2013

 A POWERFUL earthquake shook the country’s northern coast yesterday morning, sending residents fleeing for higher ground and items tumbling from shelves. 

There were no immediate reports of serious damage and no tsunami alert was issued.

Disaster authorities were struggling to contact residents of the small town of Aitape, near the epicentre. 

One Aitape local reached by the Australian Broadcasting Corp (ABC) said there had been no signs of unusual wave activity and no major damage.

The shallow, magnitude-6.8 earthquake struck 19km east of Aitape. 

Max Kamave at the Aitape Resort Hotel told ABC the tremor lasted for about three minutes and knocked stock off the shelves and many residents, fearing a tsunami, ran for higher ground.

Personnel at Wewak Hospital, about 150km from the coastal epicentre, said they too felt the tremor but there was no immediate reports of damage from their town.

Wewak resident Gregory Moses said on Facebook: “Everything literally was shaking and I thought the roof was going to cave in any minute but thank God it’s now over.”

Chris McKee, the assistant director of the Geophysical Observatory in the capital, Port Moresby, said people in the town of Vanimo, about 145km from the epicentre, reported they had also felt the quake strongly. 

There were no initial reports of damage or injuries. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre said there was no widespread tsunami threat but a quake of this strength could generate tsunami waves within 100km of the epicentre. – Agencies