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Quiet streets, fuel lines after PNG declares emergency

Lewis Jackson -

Soldiers and police are patrolling the streets of Port Moresby as people join long lines for fuel a day after Papua New Guinea declared a state of emergency in response to a mass outbreak of rioting and violence.

Prime Minister James Marape declared a 14-day state of emergency late on Thursday, suspending several officials and putting more than 1000 soldiers on standby after a police and public sector protest over pay on Wednesday descended into rioting and looting that killed at least 20 people.

The city had returned to a "new normal" on Friday morning, with police and soldiers on the streets and long lines at petrol stations, according to Matt Cannon, who heads the local branch of emergency response service St John Ambulance.

A Port Moresby shopping centre was among businesses targeted during the deadly rioting and looting. (AP PHOTO)

"We're expecting the supermarkets that are functioning to reopen today and I'm hearing they have increased security to cater for potentially large numbers of people," Cannon said.

The unrest was sparked when police and other public servants went on strike on Wednesday over a pay cut that officials later blamed on an administrative glitch.

Within hours, thousands thronged the streets looting and rioting against a backdrop of smoke and burning buildings.

A mob also tried to break through the gates outside the prime minister's office.

Fifteen people were killed in the rioting in capital city Port Moresby and five were killed in Lae, in the country's north, according to PNG Police deputy commissioner of specialist operations Donald Yamasombi.

The death toll was earlier reported at 16.

Twenty people were killed during rioting and looting that left PNG's two biggest cities in flames. (AP PHOTO)

Yamasombi said 700 police and 120 soldiers patrolled Port Moresby on Friday along with several hundred reservists.

Things were quiet on Friday when employee Eddie Allo took the bus to work at the Port Moresby General Hospital.

Most vehicles on the roads were government-owned and many people were short on fuel because petrol stations had been closed, he said.

"Everything is at a standstill now," Allo said by phone.

"Not many people are on the street and the police and army are patrolling around the areas on foot.

"No looting is going on."

Lewis Jackson - AAP


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