At least 30 dead after 7.5-magnitude natural disaster strikes Papua New Guinea

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Dozens of people are believed to have been killed in the 7.5-magnitude quake that hit Papua New Guinea (PNG)'s central highlands region early Monday, local media reported Tuesday. This level of alert means fatalities and damages are possible, and the temblor's impact is likely more localized.

U.S. seismologists said the initial quake struck 90 km (56 miles) south of Porgera at about 03:45 local time on Monday (17:45 GMT on Sunday), with dozens of aftershocks, including a 5.7 quake on Tuesday afternoon.

Chris McKee, acting director of geohazards management for the Papua New Guinea Government, said tens of thousands of people lived in the forested highlands region.

The Australian tsunami warning center did not issue any warnings and the Papuan government sent rescue teams to the area affected by the natural disaster.

The energy-rich region is home to oil and gas production.

ExxonMobil said it had shut its Hides gas conditioning plant and that it believed administration buildings, living quarters and a mess hall had been damaged.

"The company has been advised by PNG LNG operator ExxonMobil PNG that no staff or contractors have been injured as a result of these seismic events, and all personnel are safe and accounted for", Santos reported in an ASX announcement. "Flights into the Komo airfield have also been suspended until we are able to survey the runway".

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Energy giant ExxonMobil Corp has shut its liquefied natural gas plant in the wake of the powerful quake.

USGS said some casualties and damage were possible and recent earthquakes in the area had caused tsunamis and landslides.

Several other aid and missionary agencies said poor communications in the area made damage and injury assessment hard. The IRC's Regmi said communications were "completely down" in Tari, one of the larger settlements near the quake's epicentre, and that landslides had cut roads.

"The bush structures that they build tend to handle earthquakes extremely well", Christian missionary Brandon Buser told Reuters after contacting several remote villages by shortwave radio.

More news from Papua New Guinea.

Papua New Guinea is located in the Pacific Ring of Fire, a horseshoe-shaped area that is frequently shaken by earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

The quake hit a central region of the country's main island of New Guinea at a depth of 35 kilometers, 90 kilometers (55 miles) south of Porgera in the Enga province.

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