Thursday 13 December 2018

Dozens killed as powerful earthquake hits Indonesian tourist island

It is the second deadly quake in a week to hit Lombok.

Workers clean up the debris at a building damaged by the earthquake (Firdia Lisnawati/AP)
Workers clean up the debris at a building damaged by the earthquake (Firdia Lisnawati/AP)

By Associated Press Reporters

A powerful earthquake has struck the Indonesian tourist island of Lombok, killing at least 91 people and shaking neighbouring Bali.

Authorities said on Monday that rescuers still had not reached some hard-hit areas and the death toll could climb.

It was the second deadly quake in a week to hit Lombok. A July 29 quake killed 16 people and damaged hundreds of houses, some of which collapsed in Sunday evening’s magnitude 7.0 temblor, killing those inside.

National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho told a news conference damage was “massive” in the north of Lombok.

Some areas still had not been reached, with rescuers hampered by collapsed bridges, electricity blackouts and damaged roads blocked with debris.

He said the death toll had risen to 91 and more than 200 people were seriously injured. Thousands of homes and buildings were damaged.

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Houses damaged by the earthquake in North Lombok, Indonesia (Sidik Hutomo/AP)

The quake, measured at 7.0 magnitude by Indonesian authorities, struck early on Sunday evening at a depth of 10.5km (six miles) in the northern part of Lombok.

On Lombok, soldiers and other rescuers carried injured people on stretchers and carpets to evacuation centres. Many victims were treated outdoors because hospitals were damaged.

“People panicked and scattered on the streets and buildings and houses that had been damaged by the previous earthquake had become more damaged and collapsed,” Mr Sutopo said.

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A tent where patients were evacuated from a hospital following the earthquake (Firdia Lisnawati/AP)

The quake triggered a tsunami warning and frightened people poured out of their homes to move to higher ground, particularly in North Lombok and Mataram, the capital of West Nusa Tenggara province.

The warning was lifted after waves just 15cm centimeters (6in) high were recorded in three villages, said Dwikorita Karnawati, the head of Indonesia’s Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency.

“I was watching TV when I felt a big shake,” said Harian, a Lombok woman who gave one name. “The lamp was shaking, and people were shouting ‘Get out’. I ran out into the dark because the power cut off.”

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Makeshift tents are erected for those affected by the earthquake in Sembalun, Lombok Island (Adrial Pranandi/AP)

On Gili Trawangan, one of three popular vacation islands near Lombok, thousands of tourists and locals spent the night on a hill fearing a tsunami, said British visitor Saffron Amis.

“There was a lot of screaming and crying, particularly from the locals,” said Ms Amis, from Brighton.

“We spoke to a lot of them and they were panicking about their family in Lombok. It was just a lot of panic because no one knew what was happening.”

Thousands of people are now trying to get off the island, she said, describing the mood as both sombre and panicked.

A joint search and rescue team was evacuating hundreds of tourists from three popular vacation islands off the northwest of Lombok.

Mr Sutopo said there were no fatalities among the local and foreign holidaymakers.

Australia’s home affairs minister tweeted that he and his delegation were safely evacuated in darkness from a Lombok hotel where they have been staying during a regional security conference.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton told Fairfax Media that he was on the hotel’s 12th floor when the quake struck.

He said the quake “was powerful enough to put us on the floor” and cut power.

The Bali and Lombok airports continued operating on Sunday night, according to the director general of civil aviation.

There had been a half-hour evacuation at the Lombok airport following the quake because the electricity went off. TV showed crying women consoling each other outside Lombok’s airport.

Like Bali, Lombok is known for pristine beaches and mountains. Hotels and other buildings in both locations are not allowed to exceed the height of coconut trees.

Indonesia is prone to earthquakes because of its location on the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” an arc of volcanoes and fault lines in the Pacific Basin.

In December 2004, a massive magnitude 9.1 earthquake off Sumatra island triggered a tsunami that killed 230,000 people in a dozen countries.

Press Association

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