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Villages flattened by deadly quake: PNG officials

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A local stands next to a damaged house near a landslide in the town of Tari after an earthquake struck Papua New Guinea's Southern Highlands. Reuters

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Whole villages were flattened and water sources spoiled by a powerful earthquake that killed at least 20 people, residents said yesterday as rescuers struggled to reach the hardest-hit areas in Papua New Guinea’s remote, mountainous highlands.

The magnitude 7.5 quake rocked the rugged Southern Highlands province some 560 km northwest of the capital, Port Moresby, triggering landslides, damaging mining, gas and power infrastructure, and cutting communications.

Scores of aftershocks have hampered rescue efforts and rattled nervous villagers over the past two days, including a 6.0 tremor just before 1 pm local time yesterday registered by the U.S. Geological Survey.

Most of the confirmed fatalities were in or around the provincial capital of Mendi, where television pictures showed collapsed buildings and landslides, and the town of Tari, according to authorities and residents contacted by Reuters.

“It’s massive destruction,” Stanley Mamu said. One person was killed in Tari and another five were killed in a landslide in a nearby village, he said.

Elsewhere, rivers had silted up or become blocked, villages damaged and gardens and water tanks destroyed, though the biggest landslides hit sparsely populated areas, according to Mission Aviation Fellowship said on Tuesday.

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