Emergency teams in Papua New Guinea are continuing to asses the damage from Monday's powerful earthquake that killed at least 15 people.
The 7.5 magnitude quake, which struck about 90 kilometers south of the town of Porgera, triggered landslides that knocked out power lines and damaged roads across the small Pacific island, cutting off access and communications to the interior highlands region, which is believed to have sustained the brunt of the damage.
Authorities have dispatched emergency teams to Hela province by helicopter to assess the damage and confirm reports of any casualties.
Officials in the Southern Highlands say many of the reported fatalities occurred in the provincial capital of Mendi, where several homes were flattened by the quake.
Australia has sent a C-130 military transport plane to Papua New Guinea to conduct aerial surveillance and provide logistical support. "Given the challenging terrain
and remoteness of the area, we expect that the extent of the damage will become clearer in coming days," Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said in a written statement.
The earthquake forced ExxonMobil to shut down operations at its Hides liquefied natural gas plant located near Port Moresby, and has disrupted activity at other mining, oil and natural gas plants on the island.
Papua New Guinea is one of many nations that sits along the Pacific Ocean's "Ring of Fire," a line of seismic faults in the Pacific Ocean that is prone to earthquakes and volcanic activity.