Tourist exodus from Lombok as quake toll hits 105
Terrified holidaymakers rushed for boats and planes to leave Indonesia’s Lombok island Tuesday after it suffered a second deadly quake within a week, as rescuers scrambled to reach remote areas where survivors are in urgent need of food and shelter.
The shallow 6.9-magnitude quake killed at least 105 people and destroyed thousands of buildings in Lombok on Sunday, just days after another deadly tremor surged through the holiday island and killed 17.
Rescuers on Tuesday resumed the desperate search for survivors, and to recover the bodies of victims in the rubble of houses, mosques and schools destroyed in the latest disaster.
More than 20 000 people are believed to have been made homeless on Lombok, with 236 severely injured, and authorities have appealed for more medical personnel and basic supplies.
The tremor struck as evening prayers were being held across the Muslim-majority island.
Emergency crews using heavy equipment to search through a collapsed mosque in northern Lombok found three bodies but also managed to pull one man alive from the twisted wreckage.
Video posted online by disaster officials showed the man sobbing with relief as one rescuer told him: “You’re safe sir, you’re safe”.
Authorities said they feared the mosque — now educed to a pile of concrete and metal bars, its towering green dome folded in on itself — had been filled with worshippers.
“We estimate there are still more victims because we found many sandals in front of the mosque,” national disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho told reporters.
He said major building collapses had also taken place at a “health clinic, government offices and other public facilities.”
Some 4,600 tourists have been evacuated from the Gili Islands, three tiny, coral-fringed tropical islands that lie off the northwest coast of Lombok and are popular with backpackers and divers.
Hundreds crowded onto its powder-white beaches on Monday, desperately awaiting transport off the normally paradise destination. Two holidaymakers died on the largest of the three, Gili Trawangan, where buildings suffered extensive damage. Authorities said an earlier toll of seven dead was incorrect.
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 as holidaymakers jostled to leave.
“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.
On Tuesday he eventually managed to board a boat with locals and head to nearby Lombok. He made his way to the airport, where hundreds of holidaymakers slept on the floor overnight awaiting flights out.
“There’s a massive rush of people wanting to get out of Lombok because of unfounded rumours, such as of a tsunami,” Muhammad Faozal, the head of the tourism agency in West Nusa Tenggara province, told AFP.
“We can help tourists to get to the airport but of course we can’t buy them tickets for free,” he said, adding that authorities were providing free accommodation, food and transport to those in need.
Lombok airport’s general manager said airlines had laid on extra flights and that his staff had been providing stranded passengers with blankets and snacks.
“We have been doing our best to manage the tourists flocking the airport,” he told AFP. “We are doing our best so we can fly out as many as possible.”
Immigration authorities said that seven foreigners were injured in the quake and are being treated in hospital.
Survivors cut off
A lack of heavy equipment and shattered roads have hampered efforts to reach survivors in the mountainous north and east of Lombok, which were hardest hit in the quake.
Najmul Akhyar, the head of North Lombok district, estimated that 80 percent of that region was damaged.
Hundreds of bloodied and bandaged victims have been treated outside damaged hospitals in the main city of Mataram and other badly affected areas.
Patients lay on beds under wards set up in tents, surrounded by drip stands and monitors, as doctors in blue scrubs attended to them.
“What we really need now are paramedics, we are short-staffed. We also need medications,” Supriadi, a spokesman for Mataram general hospital, told AFP on Monday.
Indonesia, one of the world’s most disaster-prone nations, straddles the so-called Pacific “Ring of Fire”, where tectonic plates collide and many of the world’s volcanic eruptions and earthquakes occur.
In 2014, 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.
© Agence France-Presse