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PORT MORESBY: The death toll from a powerful earthquake in Papua New Guinea rose to seven on Tuesday, as emergency crews made contact with remote communities hit by the disaster.

The 7.0 magnitude temblor hit a jungle-clad area near the Sepik River in the early hours of Monday.

The Provincial Disaster Office said a total of seven people were now believed to have died – up from three on Monday – and at least 17 have been injured.

Samaritan Aviation country director Chris Cooke said his humanitarian group had evacuated patients with significant injuries by sea plane.

“We have also been working closely with the East Sepik Provincial Disaster Relief Office performing aerial and ground surveys of the affected areas,” he said.

Strong quake hits Russia’s far east but no major damage reported

One local official, Emil Kongian, said 178 homes had been destroyed in the Karawari area, near the quake’s epicentre.

Violent earthquakes are common in Papua New Guinea, but rarely cause widespread destruction.

Outside major towns and cities, most areas are sparsely populated, and what buildings there are tend to be made of wood.

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