Port Moresby/Kuala Lumpur, 6 March 2018 –A Papua New Guinea Red Cross assessment team is trying to reach communities near the epicentre of a deadly 7.5 magnitude earthquake that struck the remote southern highlands more than a week ago.

The Red Cross team – made up of staff from the Red Cross and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) – has travelled to Nipa-Kutubu district to assess damage and needs. However, the team has yet to reach communities at the epicentre. If successful, it would be one of the first humanitarian teams to reach the area since the quake shook communities, levelled houses and triggered landslides on 25 February.

This visit is crucial. Red Cross teams have been able to assess and support communities in other parts of the country, but access to parts of Nipa-Kutubu has been impossible because lines of communication have been severed and roads damaged,” said Uvenama Rova, the Secretary General of Papua New Guinea Red Cross.

IFRC Head of Country Office for Papua New Guinea Udaya Regmi said, “We are anxious to reach communities while there is a lull in what is usually a season of heavy rain. A big downpour could bring landslides in hillsides already destabilised by the earthquake, cause floods and contaminate water.”

Initial assessments indicate that as many as 143,000 people could have been affected, with an estimated 500 people injured and 17,000 people displaced from their homes. Even in more accessible areas of the country, health facilities have been damaged.

Late last week, IFRC released 209,000 Swiss francs (212,000 US dollars) from its Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) to finance initial assessment and response efforts.

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Media contacts

In Port Moresby:

Uvenama Rova +675 325 8577 or +675 72731737 uvr6057@gmail.com

Udaya Regmi, +675 75436368 Udaya.Regmi@ifrc.org

In Kuala Lumpur: Rosemarie North, I+60 122 308 451, rosemarie.north@ifrc.org @RosemarieNorth

In Geneva: Matthew Cochrane, +41 792 518 039, matthew.cochrane@ifrc.org @mahatmat