Indonesia quake death toll rises as survivor search goes on

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At least 131 people were killed and nearly 1,500 injured in the Sunday earthquake on the tropical resort island of Lombok, with the numbers expected to rise further, Indonesian officials said on Wednesday,

Rescuers were digging through the rubble of homes, schools and mosques looking for survivors. Meanwhile, survivors faced another night out in the open.

Officials said that more than 80,000 people are believed to have been made homeless. Many thousands more are temporarily displaced.

The shallow 6.9-magnitude quake on Sunday destroyed thousands of buildings and triggered panic among tourists and locals. It came just a week after another tremor had surged through the holiday island and killed 17. 

All across the island, once-bustling villages have been turned into virtual ghost towns, with residents sleeping out in the open, too scared to stay near their collapsed homes amid hundreds of aftershocks.

“Last night I was on the hill because I was afraid, I heard there would be a tsunami,” Din Iqra, from the northern village of Malaka, told the AFP news agency. “Only this morning were we brave enough to come down.”

Relief efforts underway

According to Silverius Tasman from the organization Yayasan Sayangi Tunas Cilik, a partner of Save the Children in Indonesia, many people were sleeping in makeshift shelters in rice fields or on the roadside. “They do not have a water supply and not enough food,” Tasman told AFP, after visiting Karang Bajo village in the island’s north. “Children are the most vulnerable.”  

 

The military dispatched five planes with food, medicine, blankets, field tents, and water tankers from Jakarta on Wednesday.

The quake struck across the Muslim-majority island during Sunday evening prayers. Rescue crews using heavy equipment to search a collapsed mosque in northern Lombok found three bodies, but also managed to pull one man alive from the twisted wreckage.

Tourists leaving

Some 5,000 tourists have been evacuated from the Gili Islands; three tiny, coral-fringed tropical islands off the northwest coast of Lombok that are popular with backpackers and divers.

Tourists on the beach on Gili Island (Reuters/Indonesia Water Police)

Tourists waiting to get off Gili Island

Following the quake, tourists crowded onto the beaches on Monday to await transport off the tropical destination.

French tourist Laurent Smadja, who had been on Gilli Meno, the smallest of the three islands, described scenes of chaos and confusion in the aftermath of the quake. “We had no electricity and no information about what to do. We saw everybody leaving in boats, but no boat came to us,” he told AFP.    

Shattered roads and a lack of heavy equipment have hampered efforts to reach survivors in the mountainous north and east of Lombok, which were hardest hit.

Muhammad Zainul Majdi, the governor of West Nusa Tenggara, said the province was in desperate need of paramedics, food and medicine.

av/rt (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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