PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea – A 7.6-magnitude earthquake shook Papua New Guinea on Sunday, damaging buildings, triggering landslides and killing at least two people, with several more severely injured.

Residents in northern towns near the epicentre reported intense shaking mid-morning that cracked roads and sheared cladding off buildings.

Local Member of Parliament Kessy Sawang said at least two people had died in remote mountain villages, with at least four others airlifted to hospital in critical condition.

“There has been widespread damage,” she said, adding that a landslide had buried homes and “split” one village where people had lost their houses.

There are limited communications in the area, little government resources and few paved roads, making assessment and rescue efforts difficult.

Small aviation companies and missionary groups were involved in airlifting some of the injured across the rugged jungle landscape.

“It’s very difficult, the terrain, the weather. It’s challenging,” said Ms Nellie Pumai of Manolos Aviation, which had transported one person out and was trying to return.

In the eastern highland town of Goroka, residents captured images of window awnings falling off the cracked walls of a local university.

It was “very strong”, said Ms Hivi Apokore, a worker at the Jais Aben Resort near the coastal town of Madang.

“Everything was like sitting on a sea – just floating.”

The quake was felt as far as the capital Port Moresby, about 480km away.

The US Geological Survey initially issued a tsunami warning for nearby coastal areas, but subsequently said the threat had passed.

Fearful locals near the sea, nevertheless, fled for higher ground – reporting that the water level had suddenly dropped.