More than 150,000 forced from homes on quake-hit Lombok
Death toll topped 130 on Wednesday and more bodies are expected to be found as rescue workers search collapsed buildings after 6.9 quake on Sunday
The death toll from the earthquake that rocked the Indonesian island of Lombok rose above 130 on Wednesday. Authorities appealed for food, water and medical help for the estimated 156,000 people forced from their homes.
Many displaced villagers are staying under tents or tarpaulins dotted along roads or in parched rice fields, and makeshift medical facilities have been set up to treat the injured, AFP reported.
Evacuees in some encampments say they are running out of food, while others are suffering psychological trauma after the 6.9-magnitude quake, which struck just one week after another tremor surged through the island and killed 17.
Around 1,477 people were severely injured in the disaster, with tens of thousands of homes damaged, and authorities say the toll of 131 is likely to rise.
On Monday and Tuesday authorities evacuated a mass of tourists from small islands close to Lombok after the quake on Sunday night. About 1,000 tourists were taken off the Gili Islands, which saw big crowds gather at the port to wait for vessels to get them to safer havens.
Security forces and emergency workers have been rushing to aid victims while strong aftershocks continued to strike the island.
The quake triggered a tsunami warning, which was later canceled, and was also felt on the neighboring island of Bali, one of Southeast Asia’s leading destinations, where tourists ran onto the streets as the tremor struck.
Rescuers searched for survivors in the rubble of houses, mosques and schools that were among thousands of buildings destroyed in the disaster that struck on Sunday evening.
“The search and rescue team is still scouring the scene and evacuating [people],” national disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said. “We estimate the number of victims will rise.”
The shallow 6.9-magnitude quake sent thousands of Lombok residents and tourists scrambling outdoors, where many spent the night as strong aftershocks including one of 5.3-magnitude continued to rattle the island.
The quake knocked out power in many areas, and parts of Lombok remained without electricity on Monday. Hundreds of bloodied and bandaged victims were treated outside damaged hospitals in the main city Mataram and other hard-hit parts of the island.
Patients lay on beds under makeshift wards sent up in tents, surrounded by drip stands and monitors, as doctors in blue scrubs attended to them.
“Many injured people are being treated outside of hospitals and health clinics because the buildings were damaged,” Nugroho said.
Most of the victims were in the mountainous north and east of the island, away from the main tourist spots and coastal districts in the south and west.
Najmul Akhyar, head of North Lombok district, estimated that 80% of that region was damaged by the quake. “We need heavy equipment because some mosques have collapsed and we suspect some worshippers are still trapped inside,” he told Metro TV.
The first quake that hit Lombok was of 6.4-magnitude and left 17 people dead. It triggered landslides that briefly trapped trekkers on popular mountain hiking routes.
In the latest quake, Lombok’s main airport was unaffected, although passengers were briefly evacuated from the main terminal.
Singapore’s Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam, who was in Lombok for a security conference when the earthquake struck, described on Facebook how his hotel room on the 10th floor shook violently.
“Walls cracked, it was quite impossible to stand up,” he said.
Bali’s international airport suffered damage to its terminal but the runway was unaffected and operations had returned to normal, disaster agency officials said.
Indonesia, one of the most disaster-prone nations on earth, straddles the so-called Pacific “Ring of Fire”, where tectonic plates collide and many of the world’s volcanic eruptions and earthquakes occur.
In 2004, a devastating tsunami triggered by a magnitude 9.3 undersea earthquake off the coast of Sumatra in western Indonesia killed 220,000 people in countries around the Indian Ocean, including 168,000 in Indonesia.
– with reporting by AFP. This was updated late on Wednesday.