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At least 70 dead as tidal wave hits coast of Papua New Guinea

SHARE At least 70 dead as tidal wave hits coast of Papua New Guinea

A tidal wave has swept away villages in a heavily populated area of northwest Papua New Guinea killing at least 70 people, a disaster relief official said on Saturday.

Colin Travertz, of the PNG National Disaster Centre, told CNN that 10 villages had been destroyed when the wave hit on Friday evening. "At least 70 dead have been confirmed," he said.The wave was about 33 feet high, a local priest told the BBC, and hit 18 miles of coast. The station said the wave had caused "significant devastation" and made some 3,000 people homeless, and that at least 30 children were among the dead.

The wave was caused by an earthquake offshore measuring 7 on the Richter scale and along the coast near the town of Aitape in West Sepik province.

Hundreds of palm thatched houses had been destroyed in low-lying villages to the east and west of Aitape, Australian Broadcasting Corp said.

Rob Parer, a businessman who lives near Aitape, said the population affected by the wave was around 15,000. "All the houses of theirs along the beach, I'd say 80 or 90 percent, have been wiped out by the sound of it," he said.