people outside a hospital in northern lombok

Indonesia earthquake: lack of equipment hampers rescue efforts

Some rescuers forced to dig by hand after Lombok earthquake that killed at least 98 people

— Rescuers on the Indonesian island of Lombok have been struggling to reach possible survivors after the devastating earthquake due to a lack of equipment.

In some districts in northern Lombok, authorities said more than half the homes had been destroyed or badly damaged by the quake on Sunday, which has killed at least 98 people and injured 269. There was massive damage, said Sutopo Purwo Nugroho of the disaster management agency, and some areas were unreachable.

Rescue teams were trying to dig up bodies from underneath a mosque in the village of Lading-Lading. The building’s green dome was perched on top of slabs of flattened concrete. About 40 people were believed to have been inside the mosque when the 6.9-magnitude earthquake hit.

 

A lack of heavy lifting equipment was hampering the relief effort, Nugroho said, with some rescuers forced to dig by hand. Other obstacles in the mountainous north and east of Lombok included collapsed bridges and electricity and communication blackouts. Debris blocked damaged roads.

The earthquake was the second in a week to hit Lombok following a previous one on 29 July, which killed 16 people and damaged numerous houses. The death toll form this quake is expected to increase. About 20,000 people are in temporary shelters.

people outside a hospital in northern lombok
People outside a hospital in northern Lombok, where 80% of the region is estimated to have been damaged. Photograph: Adi Weda/EPA

 

Najmul Akhyar, the North Lombok district chief, estimated that 80% of the region had been damaged by the quake. Nugroho said: “We expect the number of fatalities to keep rising. All victims who died are Indonesians.”

Search teams rescued between 2,000 and 2,700 tourists from the Gili islands, three tiny, coral-fringed tropical islands off the north-west coast of Lombok. Footage posted online by rescue officials showed hundreds of panicked tourists and locals crowding on to powder-white beaches waiting for evacuation.

James Kelsall, a 28-year-old British tourist, was visiting one of the Gili islands with his partner when the quake struck. Speaking from a beach as he awaited evacuation, the teacher said: “There were lots of injuries and pain on the island from buildings that had collapsed on to people.

“The most terrifying part was the tsunami warning that followed. All the locals were frantically running and screaming, putting on lifejackets.”

Hospitals were reportedly full and injured people were being treated in car parks and makeshift medical tents. Aid agencies said they were distributing food, water, tents, blankets and hygiene kits.

Zul Ashfi, the humanitarian programme coordinator for Islamic Relief in Indonesia, described the situation as “catastrophic”.

 

“I saw people fleeing for their lives, screaming for help into their mobile phones as they ran,” he said. “It was very traumatic. They are now sleeping in the open air and have nothing. We are now working against the clock to reach as many people in need as we can.”

The earthquake caused widespread panic across Lombok, with residents fleeing their homes and heading to higher ground, after the tremor initially triggered a tsunami warning. Rescue officials said much of the damage was in Lombok’s main city of Mataram, with several areas losing power and patients evacuated from the main hospital.

Iman, who like many Indonesians has one name, told Agence France-Presse: “Everyone immediately ran out of their homes, everyone is panicking.”

The United States Geological Survey said the epicentre of the quake was on land on Lombok, but initial reports put it just off the coast. It struck at a depth of 31km (19 miles).

Two helicopters have been deployed to assist in emergency operations and the military has sent troops and medical personnel, as well as medical supplies and communications equipment.

Government ministers and officials from countries across the region, who were attending a summit on security and counter-terrorism in Mataram, were among those evacuated from their hotels.

a man walks through the ruins of houses in western lombok
A man walks through the ruins of houses in western Lombok after the 6.9-magnitude earthquake Photograph: Zabur Karuru/Antara Foto/Reuters

 

Singapore’s law and home affairs minister, K Shanmugam, said his 10th-floor hotel room shook violently and the walls cracked. “It was quite impossible to stand up. Heard screams,” he wrote on Facebook.

“Came out, and made my way down a staircase, while building was still shaking. Power went out for a while. Lots of cracks, fallen doors.”

The Australian home affairs minister, Peter Dutton, said all the members of his country’s delegation were safe.

The quake was also strongly felt in Bali, where people ran out of houses, hotels and restaurants. Pictures showed damage to two shopping centres and a temple in Ubud. Despite superficial damage, flights from Lombok airport and Bali’s Ngurah Rai airport continued to operate on Sunday evening.

Michelle Lindsay, an Australian tourist in Bali, said: “All the hotel guests were running, so I did too. People filled the streets. A lot of officials were urging people not to panic.”

The American model Chrissy Teigen was on holiday in Bali with her family when the quake struck, and tweeted throughout the tremors.

An Indonesian imam became a hero after stoically reciting evening prayers during the quake. Mobile phone footage showed him continuing to preach at a mosque in Denpasar, Bali, as people made for the exits.

 

Indonesia is one of the most disaster-prone nations on Earth. It straddles the Pacific ring of fire, where tectonic plates collide and many of the world’s volcanic eruptions and earthquakes occur.

 


by Kate Lamb, Luke Harding | The Guardian