Papua New Guinea declares 9-month state of emergency due to riots

A building is seen on fire during riots in Papua New Guinea's Southern Highlands province.

(CNN)The Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea has declared a nine-month state of emergency in the country's rugged Southern Highlands province in response to several days of riots.

The small resource-rich Pacific nation, which is due to host the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in November, has long struggled with violence and lawlessness.
The latest outbreak of unrest comes amid ongoing reconstruction efforts following a devastating 7.5-magnitude earthquake that struck the island's interior in February this year.
    Protestors took to the streets in Mendi, the capital of the Southern Highlands province, following a court ruling on Thursday that upheld the election of the regional governor William Powi, amid accusations of vote rigging, according to local media.
    A charred plane is seen after being set alight during riots in Papua New Guinea's Southern Highlands province.
    Chief Superintendent Joseph Tondop, the Southern Highlands provincial police commander, told CNN protesters burned an airplane and the local courthouse. Some of the rioters were carrying "small knives and rocks" Tendop said on the phone from Mendi.
    "The township is very much tense ... there is some law and order right now as we speak," he said.
    Tondop said the country's defense forces have sent 100 troops to the region and another 100 are on the way, though it's unclear when they will arrive. No casualties have been reported yet, according to Tondop.
    February's earthquake killed dozens of people in the remote Southern Highlands and Hela provinces, and damage caused by the tremors made it difficult for emergency services struggled to reach those in need.
    "Everyone here in this province was traumatized by the massive earthquake," Tondop said. "We were looking to recovery and reconstruction when this man-made disaster happened."