Port Moresby: A violent 7.1-magnitude earthquake struck Papua New Guinea on Wednesday, shaking buildings and prompting residents to run into the streets and causing panic in the highlands.

The quake, initially rated at 7.3, hit at a depth of 115 kilometres (71 miles) southwest of the coastal city of Lae and 223 kilometres from the capital Port Moresby, the US Geological Survey said.

Macklyn Timbun, who works as a receptionist at the Lae International Hotel, said she was sitting on a bus when the quake hit and it was so large the driver ran away and the vehicle almost rolled in the upheaval.

"I was like 'Oh my god what's happening?' Everybody started running, people were trying to jump out of the windows, it was the biggest earthquake," she told.
"Outside the hotel everyone was running out of the building because most of the time we never experience such earthquakes in Lae."

Geoscience Australia put the quake at a magnitude 7.2 at 0504 GMT, but said it was not expected to create a tsunami because it was not an undersea rupture.

"That's the assessment on the basis that it's about 20 kilometres inshore and also it's about 120 kilometres deep and that's too deep really to cause any tsunami problems," said seismologist Clive Collins.

Papua New Guinea's earthquake observatory said there were no reports yet of damage but Collins said the tremor could have caused problems for the nearest large town Wau, about 20 kilometres from the epicentre, as well as Lae.

(Agencies)