A powerful earthquake two days ago killed at least 15 people, injured dozens, and brought work to a halt at four oil and gas fields in a remote Papua New Guinea region, the local governor said Wednesday. His comments were the first confirmation of deaths from a high-ranking official after Monday's magnitude 7.5 earthquake severed communications and blocked roads in the central region, hindering assessment of the scale of the destruction. The country's National Disaster Center has declined to give numbers as it assesses the damage. The quake hit about 55 miles southwest of Porgera, the site of a large gold mine that employs more than 2,500.
Southern Highlands Governor William Powi tells the AP that communication remains difficult and the death toll may rise. "We are looking at massive, catastrophic havoc and destruction," Powi says. "There are people who are traumatized, people in terrible devastation who have never felt this kind of destruction before." Powi says many roads remain cut off by landslides and that supplies will need to be airlifted. Many people live subsistence lives in the area, Powi says, and they would be suffering because the quake has destroyed many of their crops. He says teams are on the ground assessing the most pressing needs. The quake also caused panic and damaged buildings across the border in eastern Indonesia.