Gas-rich Papua New Guinea still coping with earthquake damage

April 2 (UPI) — More than a month after an earthquake crippled Papua New Guinea’s gas potential, the World Food Program said a quarter million people still need aid.

More than a dozen people were left dead after the island was hit with a 7.5-magnitude earthquake in late February. The World Food Program said Monday a plane carrying enough emergency food supplies to feed 60,000 people left a United Nations depot in Dubai. More than 270,000 people still need humanitarian assistance following the quake.

“Papua New Guinea already faced severe food insecurity and alarming malnutrition levels before the earthquake,” the aid agency stated.

Papua New Guinea could gain economic momentum from liquefied natural gas. It’s positioned well to take advantage of the growing energy demands from economies in the Asia-Pacific region. Many of the island nations in the region lack adequate domestic reserves, so the super-cooled LNG, which has more options for delivery than piped gas, fills in the gap.

Exxon Mobil was forced to shutter LNG operations in Papua New Guinea after the February quake. The company said some of its infrastructure was damaged and it could take another month before operations can resume.

Exxon said it was doing its part with the humanitarian effort, delivering hundreds of tons of food supplies to the affected areas.

In its latest assessment, the International Monetary Fund said the nation’s economy had “slowed sharply” in response to a decline in commodity prices. The completion of LNG infrastructure has been relatively subdued and the country last year was plagued by severe drought.