At least 14 dead in Papua New Guinea quake; ExxonMobil shuts LNG plant

ExxonMobil Corp. to shut its $19 billion liquefied natural gas plant, Papua New Guinea’s biggest export earner. (Reuters)
Updated 27 February 2018
0

At least 14 dead in Papua New Guinea quake; ExxonMobil shuts LNG plant

MELBOURNE: Up to 14 people were killed in landslides and by collapsed buildings during a powerful earthquake in the remote Papua New Guinea highlands, police and a hospital worker said on Tuesday, with unconfirmed reports of up to 30 people killed.
The 7.5 magnitude quake that rocked the region early on Monday also damaged mining and power infrastructure and led ExxonMobil Corp. to shut its $19 billion liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant, the country’s biggest export earner.
Two building collapses and a landslide killed 12 people in Mendi, the provincial capital of the Southern Highlands, said Julie Sakol, a nurse at Mendi General Hospital, where their bodies were brought to the morgue.
“People are afraid. The shaking is still continuing. There’s nowhere to go but people are just moving around,” she said.
Dozens of aftershocks rattled the area, including a 5.7 quake on Tuesday afternoon, the US Geological Survey reported.
Police in Mendi said 14 people were killed in the initial quake, including three in Poroma, south of Mendi.
“They were killed by landslides destroying families sleeping in their houses,” said Naring Bongi, a police officer in Mendi.
Provincial Administrator William Bando said more than 30 people were believed to have been killed in the rugged region, about 560 kilometers northwest of the capital, Port Moresby, the Papua New Guinea Post-Courier reported.
The PNG disaster management office said it was verifying the reports but it could take days to confirm a death toll.
ExxonMobil said communications with nearby communities remained down, hampering efforts to assess damage to facilities that feed the PNG LNG plant.
“Communications continue to be one of the most significant challenges,” the company said in an emailed statement.
Its partner, Oil Search, said a review of all of its facilities and infrastructure would take at least a week.
Miners Barrick Gold Corp. and Ok Tedi Mining also reported some damage to infrastructure.
The PNG LNG project is considered one of the world’s best performing LNG operations, having started exports in 2014 earlier than targeted, despite the challenges of drilling for gas and building a processing plant and pipeline in the remote jungle of PNG.
It has been producing at around 20 percent above its rated capacity of 6.9 million tons a year.
ExxonMobil said it had shut the two LNG processing units, or trains, at the plant on the coast near Port Moresby after earlier shutting its Hides gas conditioning plant and Hides production pads in Hela province in the highlands region.
Gas is processed at Hides and transported along a 700 kilometers line that feeds the PNG LNG plant, whose main customers are in Japan, China and Taiwan.
Traders said the impact on the LNG market would depend on the duration of the shutdown, but noted that spot prices have fallen recently as North Asia is coming out of the period of heavy winter gas demand.
“The global LNG market is likely to respond immediately as the buyers need to seek alternative sources,” said Boseok Jin, a research analyst at IHS Markit.
Barrick said some activities at the Porgera gold mine have been suspended to save electricity, as the power station that supplies the mine had been damaged.
The mine is co-owned by Barrick and China’s Zijin Mining.
State-owned Ok Tedi said by email that a landslip had blocked a road and damaged pipelines to its copper and gold mine in the Star Mountains, adding that the road would take up to two days to be cleared.
Earthquakes are common in Papua New Guinea, which sits on the Pacific’s “Ring of Fire,” a hotspot for seismic activity due to friction between tectonic plates. Part of PNG’s northern coast was devastated in 1998 by a tsunami, generated by a 7.0 quake, which killed about 2,200 people.


Sri Lanka rejects plans for $10m Shariah university

Updated 1 min 30 sec ago
0

Sri Lanka rejects plans for $10m Shariah university

  • Madrasas to be absorbed by Ministry of Education in wake of Easter Sunday attacks
  • More than 100 arrests have been made following the rioting. A curfew has been lifted and life is returning to normal

COLOMBO: Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on Tuesday refused permission for a planned $10 million (SR37.5 million) Shariah university in one of the country’s main cities.

And in the wake of the deadly Easter Sunday terror attacks on hotels and churches, the premier also announced that all madrasas would be brought under the umbrella of Sri Lanka’s Education Ministry.

The latest moves by the Sri Lankan government follow widespread unrest on the island, with anti-Muslim riots having caused damage running into millions of dollars.

Wickremesinghe’s orders came after a fact-finding report into the university compiled by MP Ashu Marasinghe. He recommended that the institution, being constructed at Batticaloa, in the Eastern Province, should be privately operated and titled Batticaloa Technology University. The new education complex is located close to the township of Kattankudy where suspected ringleader of the Easter Sunday suicide bombings, Zahran Hashim, lived and preached his messages of hate and violence.

The Sri Lankan government analyst’s department said on Tuesday that DNA tests proved Hashim died in the attack at the Shangri-La hotel in Colombo.

President’s Counsel, Ali Sabry, a prominent lawyer and political analyst, told Arab News on Tuesday that the premier’s announcement was welcome.

“We don’t need a Shariah university at this juncture when there is a lot of suspicions on various Islamic topics that need to be clarified by Islamic theologians following the suicide attacks by Muslim extremists,” Sabry said. He stressed that the country’s main focus should be on strengthening ways to ensure peaceful coexistence among all communities.

The Sri Lankan University Grants Commission had a set of guidelines to license new universities, and Wickremesinghe’s latest recommendations would also be included among the requirements for a new university, Sabry added.

The prime minister’s ruling on madrasas (Islamic seminaries) would provide more transparency on the activities of the institutions, he said. “Their curriculum and their co-curricular activities should maintain a common standard and these madrasas should prepare the students to make them fit into society instead of just learning Arabic and Islam only.”

M.R.M. Malik, director of the Muslim Affairs Ministry in Colombo, told Arab News that currently all madrasas function under his ministry. “There are 317 madrasas throughout the island with an estimated 25,000 students. In addition to the local teachers, there are 38 Arabic teachers and 85 foreign students,” he said.

Most of the teachers are from Egypt, Pakistan and India, while many of the overseas students studying at the madrasas are from Libya, Pakistan, Jordan and India.

Sri Lanka Muslim Council President N.M. Ameen told Arab News that the local community had never wanted a Shariah university. However, he said the proposed curriculum for the madrasas should be constructed in consultation with Islamic scholars and the Muslim community.

Meanwhile, Western Province Gov. Azath Salley, revealed that damage caused by anti-Muslim riots had reached nearly Rs900 million (SR19.2 million). The governor was speaking to Arab News following a visit to some of the worst-affected villages on the island.

“Speaking to the families of the vandalized properties, it’s clear that an organized gang had attacked these earmarked properties owned by Muslims,” said Salley. “One child, whose father was killed in his presence, is still in a state of utter shock and dismay.” He added that turpentine oil had been poured on the face of the dead carpenter by his killers and set on fire.

The governor urged the authorities to bring the attackers to justice. He added that the government would provide compensation to victims of wrecked properties.

Police spokesman Ruwan Gunasakera said that more than 100 arrests had been made following the rioting, and that a curfew had been lifted and life was returning to normal.