Strong aftershock hits Papua New Guinea

Creates of Australian aid are seen on tarmac next to an Australian Air Force plane

While in Papua New Guinea the C-130 will assist with the delivery of relief items to the affected Highlands region in partnership with Papua New Guinean authorities and other development partners.

The strongest quake of 7.5 magnitude left houses devastated as well as generated landslides in a remote province as reports about it leaked out slowly.

A spokeswoman at the National Disaster Centre said the official death toll is now estimated at between 55 and 75 although they do not yet have firm numbers.

Johnny Blades has more.

Officials estimated 150,000 people were in need of aid following the large quake, and residents continue to flee their homes every time the ground shakes, fearing structural collapse.

"We haven't slept. It's been shaking all through the night", William Bando, provincial administrator of Hela Province, said by telephone from Tari, about 40km from the site of the shocks.

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"Mothers and children are so traumatised. Every little movement scares them", said Komengi.

Water and sanitation are major concerns for local communities, with relief workers unable to get bigger food trucks through to some areas because of damage to roads by landslides.

The International Red Cross warned the situation could deteriorate if heavy rains hit the region.

The Red Cross said its 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.

ExxonMobil, which shut its US$19 billion PNG liquefied natural gas (LNG) project after the first quake, said on Wednesday that its facilities in Hides, where it runs a gas conditioning plant, were safely shut in.

"It was with great sadness that His Holiness Pope Francis learned of the tragic loss of life following the recent quake in Papua New Guinea", the telegram said. All employees and contractors were safe.

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