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Another massive earthquake hits Papua New Guinea

graphic

November 18, 2000
Web posted at: 10:52 AM HKT (0252 GMT)

BRISBANE, Australia (Reuters) -- A massive earthquake measuring about 7.0 on the Richter scale hit the Papua New Guinea island of New Britain on Saturday, the third major quake in the remote South Pacific region in recent days.

Officials in the capital Port Moresby told Reuters there were no initial reports of injuries or major damage, but said they were unable to communicate directly with the island's main center, the port town of Rabaul.

"We just hope it's not going to be a disaster. At this point in time there was no report of injury or damage," said a seismologist from the Port Moresby Geophysical Observatory.

The observatory said the quake struck at a shallow depth just offshore of New Britain at 8.02 a.m. (2102 GMT Friday) with an epicenter 5.5 degrees south and 151.7 degrees east.

It registered an initial magnitude in Australia of 7.5 but has been downgraded to about 6.8, it said.

Rabaul, on the northeast tip of the island, escaped major damage from two quakes on Thursday.

One with a magnitude of 8.0 caused a small tidal wave and was followed three hours later by another quake registering 7.7.

"Normally when we have a big earthquake like magnitude 8.0, you would have aftershocks and some aftershocks can be big," said the seismologist, who did not want to be named.

"This one is probably one of those," he said, noting Papua New Guinea was a seismologically active area.

About 2,500 people were killed by tsunamis on Papua New Guinea's north coast in 1998, triggered by two underwater earthquakes measuring 7.0 on the Richter scale.

Copyright 2000 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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