Papua New Guinea faces a long road to recovery after the powerful earthquake that hit the nation’s rugged highlands more than 10 days ago, with the death toll now believed to have climbed to more than 100, its leader said. PNG Prime Minister Peter O’Neill flew over the worst-hit areas on Wednesday after a magnitude 6.7 aftershock struck the mountainous region already reeling from a 7.5 quake on Feb. 26.
“There will be no quick fix. The damage from this disaster will take months and years to be repaired,” O’Neill said in Tari, the capital of Hela province.
Australia and New Zealand sent more helicopters and planes to help deliver food, water and medicine to the remote region, where the government and aid agencies have been scrambling to reach villages stranded by landslides and collapsed roads.
“Tragically, the Highlands Earthquake has already claimed the lives of an estimated more than 100 Papua New Guineans, with many more still missing and thousands of people injured,” O’Neill said in comments published by his office.
The Feb. 26 quake forced oil giant ExxonMobil Corp to shut all its gas facilities in the country, which it expects will be down for around eight weeks while it carries out inspections and repairs.