At least 670 dead in Papua New Guinea earthquake

Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, James Marape, addresses the General Debate of the 76th Session of the United Nations General Assembly at UN Headquarters in New York, New York on Friday, September 24, 2021. Pool photo by Peter Foley/UPI

May 26 (UPI) -- The death toll in a Papua New Guinea earthquake has risen to at least 670, according to official reports from the U.N. migration agency Sunday.

The "massive" earthquake caused "loss of life and property" in at least 6 villages, Al Jazeera reported citing Enga province governor Peter Ipatas.

The quake was centered in Kaokalam village, about 370 miles northwest of the South Pacific island nation's capital of Port Moresby and occurred about 3 a.m. local time on Friday.

Jessica Washington, a Jakarta-based Al Jazeera correspondent, said the disaster affected a community of mostly subsistence farmers living in a "remote and quite hilly area where landslides are common."

"Many homes have been destroyed as well as the gardens that people rely on to feed themselves in these communities," she said.

The quake happened in a region where landslides are common and officials report houses being "buried."

Papua New Guinea's Prime Minister James Marape said he had not been fully briefed on the disaster but that officials were sending crews to address infrastructure issues.

"I will release further information as I am fully briefed on the scale of destruction and loss of lives," Marape said.

Pictures on social media showed a path of damage and devastation, such as a vast bite of rock and soil cleaved off from a densely vegetated hill.

Convoys have been trying to bring humanitarian aid such as food and water to survivors in the affected area, ABC News reported.

Papua New Guinea sits just north of the equator and commonly receives a high amount of rainfall. But this year has been especially wet. A landslide in a nearby province killed at least 23 people last month.