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Tourists flee Lombok as Indonesian quake death toll rises

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Tourists fled the Indonesian island of Lombok on Monday after a magnitude-6.9 earthquake killed at least 98 people – a death toll expected to rise.

More than 200 people were seriously injured in Sunday’s shallow quake as rescue workers scrambled to reach survivors in remote areas.

National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said the damage was “massive” in northern Lombok. In several districts, more than half of homes were destroyed or severely damaged.

Nugroho said the death toll will “definitely increase”, adding more than 20,000 people had been displaced.

Thousands of buildings collapsed, especially in the north, near the earthquake’s epicentre, and power and communications were down in some areas on the popular tourist island.

A tsunami alert was issued immediately after the quake struck, sending panicked people running to higher ground, but it was later rescinded.

“When it happened, we stood with residents in the middle of the street and watched houses collapse around us,” said Yustrianda Sirio, who was visiting the island. “Many of us screamed hysterically.”

Some airlines added extra flights to help tourists leave the island, while about 1,200 foreign and domestic tourists were evacuated by boat from three Gili islands off Lombok’s northwest coast, said Nugroho.

‘Ran to the hills’
Al Jazeera’s Step Vaessen, reporting from Tanjung in northern Lombok, said: “The destruction here is unbelievable.

“After there was a tsunami alert yesterday, a lot of [tourists] panicked; they climbed into trees, they ran into the hills, a lot of people got injured there,” she said.

“There’s no arrangement, there’s no transport, there’s no food, there’s no water for them, so a lot of them are completely lost, they’re completely confused, still scared and the only thing they’re telling me is that they want to leave the country as soon as possible.”

Ring of Fire
The earthquake hit a week after a magnitude-6.4 quake killed 17 people, injured more than 160, and caused widespread damage to buildings.

Rescuers on Monday searched for survivors in the rubble of houses, mosques, and schools destroyed in the latest disaster.

“There are challenges: the roads were damaged, three bridges were also damaged, some locations are difficult to reach and we don’t have enough personnel,” said Nugroho.

The Indonesian Agency for Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics said more than 120 aftershocks were recorded, including a tremor so powerful it was felt on the neighbouring island of Bali, where two people died.

The Indonesian military said it was sending a vessel with medical aid and supplies and will provide logistical support.

Severe injuries
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.

More than 230,000 people perished in the giant wave in a dozen countries after it stormed across the Indian Ocean – one of the world’s deadliest natural disasters.

[source: Al Jazeera]
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