Earthquake 7.5 Magnitude Hits Papua New Guinea


An earthquake with a 7.5 magnitude has hit Papua New Guinea, with its epicenter in the northeastern town of Rabaul, and near the Solomon Islands, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) reported. The quake hit at a depth of 40 kilometers and was trailed by two subsequent earthquakes measuring at 5.7 and 5.0 respectively. The tremor lasted for about five minutes and locals inside their buildings, who felt the walls swaying, were prompted to evacuate in the event of a collapse or gas leak, even though no damage was reported.

The earthquake, which hit Papua New Guinea, was originally recorded at a magnitude of 7.7, but was later reduce to 7.5 after government officials in the capital city of Port Moresby contacted neighboring towns to make sure people were okay. No injuries or damage were reported, and locals did return to work, however, in Hawaii, The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center issued a tsunami warning for the coasts located within 1000 kilometers from the epicenter, which was later lifted.

Papua New Guinea is an island located in the South Pacific, first known to be inhabited about 5000 years ago by the Melanesians. Since these people were essentially forest dwellers, no central community existed, thus even today, more than 700 languages exist in this small region. The Island around the 1500’s was discovered by Spanish and Portuguese explorers who created settlements, which they used as stopping points en route to Asia. In the 1800’s, other European powers arrived, and while the northern parts were annexed by Germany, the British established a mandate over the southern parts, which they subsequently annexed and renamed British New Guinea. In the early 1900’s, Australia took over the British part, renaming it Papua and then following its defeat of Germany in World War I, was rewarded a mandate over the southern part, naming it New Guinea. During World War II, the territory was once again split between the Japanese and Australian military, and then reunited after the war, as a protectorate of the United Nations. Following a transitional period of setting up a government, Papua New Guinea achieved full independence as a monarchy.

Papua New Guinea sits in a zone where three main plates meet. These are the Philippine, the Pacific and Indo-Australian plates. In addition to these larger plates, several smaller microplates are created, as well as destroyed, within these meeting points. This constant changing, creates perpetual motions, causing ground shifts, which lead to earthquakes like the one which struck today.

Since Papua New Guinea is located in such a zone, these type of earthquakes, and at times, tsunamis are a regular occurrence. Papua New Guinea has in fact, had several of these type of earthquakes throughout its history, sometimes more than once every five years. The most recent one prior to this occurrence occurred around July 2013, when two Papua New Guinea earthquakes, similar to the 7.5 magnitude which hit today, were reported. The larger one measured 7.2 and the smaller 6.6. Earthquakes are not only limited to this Island, but also to other Islands in the South Pacific, with the more severe ones striking the Philippines and Indonesia. Further over the Pacific, in South America, Chile was struck today with an earthquake measuring 5.6. There were no reports of damage or tsunami warnings.

By Bill Ades

Al Jazeera
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Photo by Hadi Zaher – Flickr License

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