WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Papua New Guinea police said Wednesday that an earthquake last month killed at least 125 people and forced another 35,000 from their homes.
The Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary said major relief efforts are underway in the central region where the magnitude 7.5 quake struck on Feb. 26. The official death toll rose from 55 last week and police said it could rise further.
The region is remote and undeveloped, and assessments about the scale of the damage and injuries have been slow to filter out. Strong aftershocks have continued to rattle the area.
Police said 80 people were killed in Hela province and another 45 in Southern Highlands province. They said those forced from their homes were staying in care centers set up across the region.
Many schools in the region remain closed and landslips continue to block roads.
Assistant Commissioner of Police Kaiglo Ambane said authorities are making progress with clearing roads and collecting data on deaths.
“So far, there are no problems with security in the Southern Highlands province,” Ambane said in a statement, adding that there were security personnel in Hela but more were needed.
Papua New Guinea, home to 7 million people, is located on the eastern half of the island of New Guinea, to the east of Indonesia. It sits on the Pacific’s “Ring of Fire,” the arc of seismic faults around the Pacific Ocean where most of the world’s earthquakes and volcanic activity occur.