Aftershock jolts Indonesia’s Lombok as death toll jumps to 259

Another powerful earthquake rocks the beleaguered tourist island, collapsing buildings and sending people onto streets.

Lombok quake
A woman reacts shortly after a 6.2-magnitude aftershock hit Tanjung on Thursday [Adek Berry/AFP]

A strong earthquake hit Indonesia’s Lombok Island on Thursday, causing buildings to collapse and sending already traumatised people rushing out of shelters.

The magnitude-6.2 earthquake followed a 6.9-magnitude quake on Sunday that killed at least 259 people, damaged thousands of buildings, and left 156,000 people homeless.

Indonesia’s geological agency said the quake was shallow, at a depth of 12km, centred in the northeast of the island. The US Geological Survey measured the tremor at magnitude-5.9. It did not have the potential to cause a tsunami.

It was the third big quake to hit Lombok in little more than a week. There were no immediate reports of deaths or injuries.

Evacuees at a shelter in northern Lombok’s Tanjung district ran out onto the road crying and screaming, an AFP news agency reporter at the scene said. A woman wearing a motorbike helmet was seen crying with her two daughters in her arms.

“We were stuck in the traffic while delivering aid, suddenly it felt like our car was hit from behind, it was so strong,” said witness Sri Laksmi.

“People in the street began to panic and got out of their cars, they ran in different directions in the middle of the traffic.”

Sunday’s quake wiped out entire villages in the worst-hit regions of northern and western Lombok.

The disaster agency’s death toll from the earthquake was raised to 259 from 131.

“This number will continue increasing as rescue teams continue to find victims under collapsed buildings,” the agency said in a statement.

Burying the dead

A humanitarian crisis is also looming in Lombok, where thousands have been left homeless and in desperate need of clean water, food, medicine and shelter.

Grieving relatives were burying their dead and medics tended to people whose broken limbs had not yet been treated. The Red Cross said it was focusing relief efforts on an estimated 20,000 people yet to get any assistance.

In Kopang Daya village in Tanjung district, a distraught family was burying their 13-year-old daughter on Thursday. She was struck by a collapsing wall and then trampled when Sunday’s quake caused a stampede at her Islamic boarding school.

Villagers and relatives prayed outside a tent where the girl’s body lay inside covered in a white cloth.

“She was praying when the earthquake happened,” said her uncle Tarna, who gave a single name.

“She was trying to get out, but she got hit by a wall and fell down. Children were running out from the building in panic and she was stepped on by her friends.”

Indonesia is prone to earthquakes because of its location on the Ring of Fire, an arc of volcanoes and fault lines in the Pacific Basin. In December 2004, a magnitude-9.1 earthquake off Sumatra Island triggered a massive tsunami that killed 230,000 people in a dozen countries.

Source: News Agencies