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PORT MORESBY: At least five people were killed and an estimated 1,000 homes destroyed when a magnitude 6.9 earthquake rocked flood-stricken northern Papua New Guinea, officials said Monday as disaster crews poured into the region.

“So far, around 1,000 homes have been lost,” said East Sepik Governor Allan Bird, adding that emergency crews were “still assessing the impact” from a tremor that “damaged most parts of the province”.

Dozens of villages nestled on the banks of the country’s Sepik River were already dealing with major flooding when the quake struck early Sunday morning.

Provincial police commander Christopher Tamari told AFP that authorities had recorded five deaths but the number of fatalities “could be more”.

Magnitude 6.1 earthquake hits off Indonesia’s East Nusa Tenggara, agency says

Photos taken in the aftermath of the quake showed damaged wooden houses collapsing into the surrounding knee-high floodwaters.

Earthquakes are common in Papua New Guinea, which sits on top of the seismic “Ring of Fire” – an arc of intense tectonic activity that stretches through Southeast Asia and across the Pacific basin.

Although they seldom cause widespread damage in the sparsely populated jungle highlands, they can trigger destructive landslides.

Many of the island nation’s nine million citizens live outside major towns and cities, where the difficult terrain and lack of sealed roads can seriously hamstring search-and-rescue efforts.

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