Very strong M7.2 earthquake hits Papua New Guinea

Very strong M7.2 earthquake hits Papua New Guinea

A very strong earthquake registered by the USGS as M7.2 hit near Bulolo, Papua New Guinea at 21:19 UTC on May 6, 2019 (07:49 local time, May 7). The agency is reporting a depth of 126.9 km (78.8 miles). EMSC is reporting M7.1 at a depth of 130 km (80.7 miles). 

This earthquake can have a medium humanitarian impact based on the magnitude and the affected population and their vulnerability.

The epicenter was located 36.6 km (22.7 miles) NW of Bulolo (population 16 042) and 53.1 km (33 miles) NW of Wau (population 14 629), Papua New Guinea.

There are several small villages near the epicenter - Wowas 3 km (1.8 miles), Dambi 8 km (5 miles), Marilinan 11 km (6.8 miles) and Tsile Tsile 14 km (8.7 miles)

There are 610 000 people living within 100 km (62 miles) and 1 700 within 10 km.

2 000 people are estimated to have felt very strong shaking, 829 000 strong, 936 000 moderate and 3 203 000 light.

Liquefaction triggered by this earthquake is estimated to be significant in severity and (or) spatial extent.

The number of people living near areas that could have produced liquefaction in this earthquake is significant. This is not a direct estimate of liquefaction fatalities or losses.

Liquefaction map. Credit: USGS

The USGS issued a green alert for shaking-related fatalities and economic losses. There is a low likelihood of casualties and damage.

Overall, the population in this region resides in structures that are a mix of vulnerable and earthquake resistant construction. The predominant vulnerable building types are unreinforced brick masonry and informal (metal, timber, GI etc.) construction.

Recent earthquakes in this area have caused secondary hazards such as tsunamis, landslides and liquefaction that might have contributed to losses.

Estimated population exposure to earthquake shaking

Selected cities exposed

Regional seismicity

Featured image credit: Google, TW/SAM

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