Scores of aftershocks spark fear among survivors; local officials declare three-day state emergency
Lombok (Indonesia): A powerful earthquake on the Indonesian tourist island of Lombok killed at least 13 people, injured hundreds and damaged thousands of homes on Sunday, officials said.
The shallow 6.4-magnitude quake jolted the island in the early morning, sending people running outside in panic and triggering landslides on popular mountain hiking routes.
Scores of aftershocks sparked fear among survivors. More than 120 were recorded, the biggest with a magnitude of 5.7, Indonesia’s meteorology agency said.
Local officials have declared a three day state emergency, according to multiple television reports.
“Thirteen people have died, hundreds of people were injured and thousands of homes were damaged in the earthquake in East Lombok. We are still collecting data,” Indonesian disaster mitigation agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said in a statement.
One Malaysian was killed and six injured, the Malaysian foreign ministry said.
“All of them were at the foot of Mount Rinjani when the incident happened,” it said.
The constant aftershocks sparked terrified shouts among scores of people made homeless in the eastern village of Sembalun, an AFP reporter said.
Some 200 people from 35 families whose house were damaged or destroyed had pitched tents there. The roof of a health clinic had collapsed and its walls had cracked.
“People are traumatised and too scared to return home for fear the aftershocks could destroy their homes completely,” the reporter said.
“Every time there is an aftershock they cry out in fear and tremors can still be felt constantly.”
Evacuees told AFP they badly needed blankets and instant food because there was no time to bring anything when they fled their homes.
Popular trekking trails on Mount Rinjani were closed because of landslides, according to the disaster agency.
One local trek organiser described how rocks rained down on two Spanish hikers and their guide as they were caught on a mountain trail.
“My trekking guide who was accompanying two tourists from Spain suffered from minor injuries during the jolt. They were hiking from Segara Anak Lake to Plawangan and rocks were falling on them during the quake,” said Karyadi, the owner of a guesthouse near Rinjani where the pair were staying.
The two Spaniards were also slightly hurt.
“Our guests were in shock because of the incident,” said Karyadi, who like many Indonesians goes by one name.
The epicentre of the earthquake struck 50km northeast of Lombok’s main city Mataram, the United States Geological Survey said, far from the main tourist spots on the south and west of the island.
USGS said two of the aftershocks measured more than 5-magnitude.
The jolt was felt some 100km away in the bustling holiday island of Bali, although there were no immediate reports of damage there.
“The earthquake was very strong … and everybody in my house panicked, we all ran outside,” said Zulkifli, a resident of North Lombok near the epicentre.
“All my neighbours also ran outside and the electricity was suddenly cut off,” Zulkifli told AFP.
No tsunami alert was issued, according to Indonesia’s geophysics and meteorology agency.
“People in East Lombok and Mataram felt the strong quake for 10 seconds, residents were panicking and running outside of their homes,” Nugroho said earlier, adding people had run for open spaces such as football fields.
At the holiday island’s hotels, tourists raced outside as the quake struck.
At the Katamaran Hotel & Resort in Senggigi beach, some 30 guests gathered in the lobby for around half an hour before venturing back to their rooms.
“They calmed down and returned to their rooms once we explained the earthquake did not trigger a tsunami. Everything is back to normal now,” receptionist Ni Nyoman Suwarningsih told AFP.
The quake also rocked the tiny Gili islands off northeast Lombok, which are popular with honeymooners, divers and partygoers.
“Fortunately there was no panic during the earthquake even though it was quite strong,” said Lilis Letisha, receptionist at the Ombak Paradise Hotel on Gili Air island.
Indonesia, an archipelago of thousands of islands, sits on the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire, a seismic activity hotspot.
It is frequently hit by quakes, most of them harmless. However, the region remains acutely alert to tremors that might trigger tsunamis.
In 2004 a 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.