Indonesia quake: Race against time to save buried survivors

Rescuers struggle to reach quake-hit areas as transport routes cut off amid urgent operations to free trapped victims.

    Rescuers on Indonesia's island of Lombok raced against time to find survivors in the rubble of collapsed buildings after a major earthquake killed nearly 100 people.

    Soldiers pulled a man out alive from the debris of a large mosque that was flattened with about 50 worshippers inside, while thousands of homeless waited for aid on Tuesday and stranded tourists camped out on pristine beaches.

    The north of Lombok was devastated by the magnitude-6.9 quake that struck Sunday night, damaging thousands of buildings and killing at least 98 people, a death toll an official said was likely to rise. More than 200 people were wounded, many in serious condition.

    Rescuers were still struggling to reach all of the affected areas with transport routes cut off, while others attempted to pry apart massive tangled mounds of debris to free those trapped underneath.

    Mosque destroyed

    Disaster officials did not say how many people they believe were buried beneath the ruins of the Jabal Nur mosque, but a rescue worker told The Associated Press about 50 people were praying inside when it collapsed.

    Video shot by a soldier showed rescuers shouting "Thank God" as a man is pulled from a space under the mosque's flattened roof on Monday, and he staggered away supported by soldiers.

    "You're safe, mister," said one of the soldiers as emotion overcame the man and villagers crowded around him.

    Disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said he hopes "a lot" of people can be saved from the mosque.

    Two people were rescued from the building on Monday, including a woman with a broken leg, said villager Supri Yono. Three were found dead, however.

    Tending to the many injured was also a major effort. 

    "We're forced to deal with broken bones in the traditional way at home because the hospital had to deal with hundreds of other injuries," said Budhiawan, the head of Lading-Lading village.

    Urgently needed

    Al Jazeera's Step Vaessen, reporting from Pemenang on Lombok, said rescue operations were in full-swing but workers lacked heavy machinery to help with the effort. Rescuers clad in orange clothing and helmets were seen drilling into a pile of debris where a victim was buried.

    British charity Oxfam said more than 20,000 people were in temporary shelters and thousands more were camping out in the open.

    It said clean drinking water was scarce because of a recent spell of extremely dry weather in Lombok. Food, medical supplies, tarpaulins and clothes are also urgently needed, it said.

    Indonesia is regularly hit by earthquakes. The archipelago of thousands of islands sits on the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire, a seismic activity hotspot. More than 180,000 Indonesians died after a 9.1-magnitude earthquake off of Aceh province generated a massive tsunami in December 2004.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies


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