On the heels of the devastating quake that hit Nepal comes another large tremor, this time off the coast of Papua New Guinea. The epicenter of the magnitude-7.4 quake was located just 139 kilometers south of Kokopo, the capital of East New Britain, an island located just east of the mainland. The quake triggered a tsunami warning, and according to Chris Maki, assistant director of the PNG Geophysical Observatory, "The sea receded first and then came back in and they saw several cycles of tsunami action in Rabaul Harbor," a sheltered harbor located on the north side of New Britain. As of now, the tsunami threat has passed and residents of the small island are beginning cleanup operations.
Today's quake was the fifth to hit the region in the past week. Thursday night, a magnitude-6.7 tremor struck, the third in as many days. On Friday night a magnitude-6.8 quake followed. Maki expects aftershocks to continue for days, possibly weeks. Following Friday night's quake, Daniel Jaksa, co-director of the Joint Australian Tsunami Warning Centre said, "The probabilities of another earthquake in that region actually increases with an event like this, but it's ... one of the most active earthquake zones in the world. Unfortunately this is completely unpredictable. Certainly the potential is there for a larger event to occur but a lot of the time, it doesn't."
Apparently in this case, it did. Which is not surprising, since PNG lies along the western rim of the most geologically active region on the planet. Known as the "Ring of Fire," this 40,000-kilometer horseshoe rims the Pacific Ocean and is host to 75% of all active volcanoes on Earth, 67 of them on PNG alone. About 90% of all earthquakes occur along the Ring and since PNG contains the most active volcanoes in the South West Pacific, they've grown accustomed to frequent rumblings, the most recent about a week ago when the Manam volcano spewed an 8,000-ft plume.
Fortunately, for the residents of PNG, the damage appears minimal. Electricity has been knocked out, schools and businesses have closed, and there is reported structural damage to several buildings, but it appears the island escaped major destruction.
However, almost 7,000 kilometers away, the people of Nepal continue to suffer. According to a recent update by the BBC, more than 7,500 are dead, over 14,000 injured, and survivors, forced to shelter outdoors, face shortages of clean water and severe threats of cholera. Relief is pouring in, with over 4,000 aid workers distributing food, water, and medical support to the hundreds of thousands left homeless. Despite immense damage to Nepal's infrastructure, roads and airport, chief executive of the UK's Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), Saleh Saeed, sees progress. "...despite immense challenges, aid is getting through to more and more people who desperately need it."