MATARAM: The death toll from a powerful earthquake on the Indonesian island of Lombok rose to 105 on Tuesday as rescuers clawed through the rubble of homes, schools and mosques for survivors and evacuees faced another night in the open.
The shallow 6.9-magnitude quake destroyed thousands of buildings and triggered panic among tourists and locals on Lombok Sunday, just a week after a tremor had surged through the holiday island and killed 17.
More than 20,000 people are believed to have been made homeless by the latest quake, with 105 killed and 236 severely injured, officials said Tuesday.
There were fears the death toll would rise as workers with heavy machinery shifted rubble at a collapsed mosque.
Across much of the island, once-bustling villages have been turned into virtual ghost towns, with residents sleeping out in the open — scared to stay near their shattered homes amid hundreds of aftershocks.
“Last night I was on the hill because I was afraid, I heard there would be a tsunami,” Din Iqra, from the northern village of Malaka, told AFP.
“Only this morning were we brave enough to come down.”
Many people made homeless by the quake were sleeping in makeshift shelters in rice fields or on the roadside, according to Silverius Tasman, from Yayasan Sayangi Tunas Cilik, a partner of Save the Children in Indonesia.
“They do not have a water supply and not enough food,” Tasman told AFP, after visiting Karang Bajo village in the island´s north.
“Children are the most vulnerable.”
The tremor struck as evening prayers were being said across the Muslim-majority island.
Crews using heavy equipment to search 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 reduced 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.
Among other major buildings to collapse were a health clinic, government offices and other public facilities, he said.
Some 4,600 tourists have been evacuated from the Gili Islands, three tiny, coral-fringed tropical islands off the northwest coast of Lombok which 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 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 his staff had been providing blankets and snacks.
Immigration authorities said 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.
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.
Muhammad Zainul Majdi, the governor of West Nusa Tenggara, said the province was in dire need of paramedics, food and medicine.
“We have limited human resources. Some (paramedics) have to be at the shelters, some need to be mobile,” he told AFP.