Indonesia on Monday (Aug 6) sent rescuers fanning out across the holiday island of Lombok and evacuated more than 2,000 tourists after a powerful earthquake killed at least 98 people and damaged thousands of buildings.
The shallow 6.9-magnitude quake sparked terror among tourists and locals alike, coming just a week after another deadly tremor surged through Lombok and killed 17 people.
Rescuers used diggers and heavy machinery to clear debris and search for survivors on Monday.
The National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) said it expected the death toll to rise once the rubble of more than 13,000 flattened and damaged houses was cleared away.
Power and communications were severed in some areas, with landslides and a collapsed bridge blocking access to areas around the quake epicentre in the north – forcing rescue teams to bring in the heavy machinery.
The military said it would send a ship with medical aid, supplies and logistics support.
National disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said there were fears a number of people were trapped in the ruins of a collapsed mosque in the northern village of Lading-Lading. Footage he posted on Twitter showed the large concrete mosque had pancaked.
Shattered roads were hampering efforts to reach survivors in the mountainous north and east of the island, which had been hardest hit.
Najmul Akhyar, the head of North Lombok district, estimated that 80 per cent of that region was damaged by the quake.
“We expect the number of fatalities to keep rising,” Nugroho said. “All victims who died are Indonesians.”
He said up to 20,000 people may have had to quit their homes on Lombok and paramedics, food and medication were badly needed.
The spokesman said search and rescue teams also rescued between 2,000 and 2,700 tourists from the Gili Islands, three tiny, coral-fringed tropical islands a few kilometres off the northwest coast of Lombok.
Michelle Thompson, an American holidaying on one of the Gilis, described a “scramble” to get on boats leaving for the main island during which her husband was injured.
“People were just throwing their suitcases on board and I had to struggle to get my husband on, because he was bleeding,” she said.
Footage posted online by Nugroho showed hundreds crowded onto powder-white beaches desperately awaiting transport off the normally paradise Gilis.
“We cannot evacuate all of them all at once because we don’t have enough capacity on the boats,” Muhammad Faozal, the head of the tourism agency in West Nusa Tenggara province, told AFP, adding two navy vessels were on their way.
“It’s understandable they want to leave the Gilis, they are panicking.”
By early afternoon, hundreds of weary tourists had arrived with their baggage at Bangsal harbour, the main link between Lombok and the Gilis.
Margret Helgadottir, a holidaymaker from Iceland, described people screaming as the roof of her hotel on one of the islands collapsed.
“We just froze: thankfully we were outside,” she told AFP tearfully from a harbour in Lombok to where she had been evacuated. “Everything went black, it was terrible.”
Seven Indonesian holidaymakers died on the largest of the three islands, Gili Trawangan, while another local woman died on nearby Bali. (Courtesy Channel News Asia)