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Lombok quake death toll hits 131

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Indonesian army personnel transport an injured villager to an evacuation centre for treatment at Lapangan Tanjung in northern Lombok on Wednesday. AFP

Lombok quake death toll hits 131

The death toll from a shallow 6.9-magnitude earthquake on the Indonesian island of Lombok has risen above 130, officials said on Wednesday, with some 156,000 forced from their homes.

The shallow 6.9-magnitude quake triggered panic among locals and tourists on Lombok on Sunday, just a week after another tremor surged through the holiday island and killed 17.

Around 1,477 people have been severely injured in the latest quake, with tens of thousands of homes damaged, and authorities have appealed for more medical personnel and basic supplies.

“We estimate the death toll of 131 will keep rising,” national disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said.

Workers with heavy machinery resumed searching through the rubble of homes, schools and mosques Wednesday, with hope of finding any survivors fading.

Muhammad Zainul Majdi, the governor of West Nusa Tenggara province which covers Lombok, said there was a dire need for medical staff, food and medicine in the worst-hit areas.

Hundreds of bloodied and bandaged victims have been treated outside damaged hospitals in the main city of Mataram and other badly affected areas.

“We have limited human resources. Some paramedics have to be at the shelters, some need to be mobile,” Majdi said. “The scale of this quake is massive for us here in West Nusa Tenggara, this is our first experience.”

Some evacuees are grappling with the traumatic scenes of death and destruction that accompanied the quake.

“I saw my neighbour get stuck in the rubble and die. He asked me for help, but I couldn’t help him, we just ran to help ourselves,” Johriah, who like many Indonesians goes by one name, told AFP tearfully.

The Indonesian Red Cross said it had set up 10 mobile clinics in the north of the island and a field hospital had been established near an evacuation centre catering to more than 500 people in the village of Tanjung.

‘Destruction almost 100 per cent’

Kurniawan Eko Wibowo, a doctor at the field hospital, said most patients were suffering broken bones and head injuries.

Across much of the island, what were once-bustling villages have been turned into virtual ghost towns.

“In some villages we visited the destruction was almost 100 percent, all houses collapsed, roads are cracked and bridges were broken,” said Arifin Muhammad Hadi, a spokesman for the Indonesian Red Cross.

Makeshift encampments have popped up on the side of roads and rice fields, with many farmers reluctant to move far from their damaged homes and leave precious livestock behind.

Local authorities, international relief groups and the central government have begun organising aid, but shattered roads have slowed efforts to reach survivors in the mountainous north and east of Lombok, which was hardest hit.

The Indonesian military said that three Hercules transporter planes packed with much-needed food, medication, blankets, tents and water tanks have now arrived in Lombok.

But some evacuees have complained of being ignored or of experiencing long delays for supplies to arrive at shelters.

“There has been no help at all here,” said 36-year-old Multazam, who was staying with hundreds of others under tarpaulins on a dry paddy field outside West Pemenang village.

“We have no clean water, so if we want to go to the toilet we use a small river nearby,” he said, adding they needed food, bedding and medicine.

The quake struck as evening prayers were being said across the Muslim-majority island and there are fears that one collapsed mosque in north Lombok had been filled with worshippers.

Crews using heavy equipment resumed the search on Wednesday for survivors in the mosque, now reduced to a pile of concrete and metal bars, with its towering green dome folded in on itself.

Rescuers have found three bodies and also managed to pull one man alive from the twisted wreckage.

“We estimate there are still more victims because we found many sandals in front of the mosque,” Nugroho said Tuesday. Among other major buildings to collapse were a health clinic, government offices and other public facilities, he added.

Meanwhile, the evacuation of tourists from the Gili Islands – three tiny, coral-fringed tropical islands off the northwest coast of Lombok – has finished, officials said. “Most foreign tourists have been evacuated,” said a national search and rescue team spokesman.

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