1 000 homes destroyed following M6.9 earthquake in Papua New Guinea, state of emergency declared

earthquake and flooding aftermath in papua new guinea - march 2024

Officials in Papua New Guinea are reporting at least 5 fatalities and approximately 1 000 homes destroyed following a shallow M6.9 earthquake at 20:22 UTC on March 23, 2024 (06:22 LT on March 24) in the East Sepik Province. The quake hit at a time when many parts of the country were dealing with severe flooding.

According to East Sepik Governor, Allan Bird, approximately 1 000 homes have been destroyed but emergency teams are still evaluating the full extent of the damage.

Provincial Police Commander said 5 fatalities have been confirmed, adding that the actual death toll may be higher.

At the time of the earthquake, numerous villages along the Sepik River were already under severe flooding and initial reports said 3 people died when their homes collapsed in floodwaters during shaking.

On March 20, two days before the earthquake, the acting director for the National Disaster Centre, Lusete Man, told the AFP news agency at least 23 people had been killed as torrential rain and king tides washed away roads, homes, and food gardens in Papua New Guinea’s highland and coastal regions.

earthquake and flooding aftermath in papua new guinea - march 2024 b
Image credit: East Sepik Governor Allan Bird
earthquake and flooding aftermath in papua new guinea - march 2024 b
Image credit: East Sepik Governor Allan Bird

It’s worth noting that USGS’ analysis on Saturday, March 23, estimated liquefaction triggered by this earthquake to be extensive in severity and (or) spatial extent. The number of people living near areas that could have produced liquefaction in this earthquake is significant. However, the USGS said this is not a direct estimate of liquefaction fatalities or losses.

The agency issued a Yellow alert for shaking-related fatalities and a Green alert for economic losses.

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 informal (metal, timber, GI etc.) and unreinforced brick masonry construction. Recent earthquakes in this area have caused secondary hazards such as landslides that might have contributed to losses.

papua new guinea m6.9 earthquake march 23 2024 liquefaction map
Liquefaction map (model, March 23). Credit: USGS

On Monday, March 25, the East Sepik Provincial Government declared a state of emergency, and called for all Government Officers, Stakeholders and NGOs who are keen to support, to work collaboratively for one course of action — to serve the people affected by high floods and the earthquake.

“While dealing with widespread flooding, earlier today we were rocked by a 7.0 magnitude earthquake that has damaged most parts of the province. So far around 1 000 homes have been lost. We are still assessing the impact and are collecting reports as I write this so the final count could be much higher,” Governor Bird said on Sunday.

“With regard to the multi-prong disaster, the East Sepik Provincial Government has already responded and we have allocated funds towards this effort. We can’t afford to wait for anyone else to help us because many parts of the country are also facing flood damage at the same time as we are.”


1 Five Individuals Died, 1,000 Homes Destroyed in PNG Earthquake: Regional Governor – AFP – March 25, 2024

2 Very strong and shallow M6.9 earthquake hits Papua New Guinea – The Watchers – March 23, 2024

3 Three people reported dead, 1,000 homes destroyed after earthquake hits PNG’s East Sepik province – ABC – March 24, 2024

4 Papua New Guinea floods, landslides leave at least 23 dead – Al Jazeera – March 20, 2024


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