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Lombok rocked by tremors as 319 dead

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A soldier and an official try to calm people in Tanjung on Lombok island shortly after an aftershock hit the area on Thursday. AFP

Lombok rocked by tremors as 319 dead

The death toll from a devastating earthquake on the Indonesian island of Lombok jumped to 319 on Thursday, as strong aftershocks triggered panic among traumatised survivors waiting for aid in the worst-hit regions.

The shallow 6.9-magnitude quake on Sunday levelled tens of thousands of homes, mosques and businesses across Lombok, with relief agencies only just starting to reach survivors in some of the worst-hit areas four days later.

“Our latest update is that 319 people have died,” said Indonesia’s chief security minister Wiranto, who like many Indonesians goes by one name, adding that rescue efforts were on going and complicated by
aftershocks.

The number forced from their homes in the disaster has soared to 270,000, national disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said, with around 1,000 people severely injured.

Most of the displaced were sleeping under tents or tarpaulins near their ruined homes or in evacuation shelters that are short of food, clean water and medical help.

Makeshift medical facilities had been set up to treat the injured.

Survivors of the quake were also shaken by hundreds of aftershocks, including a shallow 5.9-magnitude quake on Thursday which caused people to flee evacuation shelters crying and screaming.

Motorcycles parked on the street in northern Lombok’s Tanjung district toppled over and the walls of some nearby buildings collapsed.

“We were stuck in the traffic while delivering aid, sudddenly it felt like our car was hit from behind, it was so strong,” witness Sri Laksmi said.

“People in the street began to panic and got out of their cars, they ran in different directions in the middle of the traffic.”

Twenty-four people were injured by falling debris in the tremor, Nugroho said.

Authorities and international relief groups have begun organising aid, but badly damaged roads have slowed efforts to reach survivors in the mountainous north of Lombok, which bore the brunt of the quake.

Aid had begun trickling into some of the most isolated regions by midday Thursday, officials said, but many displaced people still lack basic supplies.

‘Exceptionally destructive’

In some parts of northern Lombok, survivors can be seen standing on the road with cardboard boxes asking for donations and food.

“It is already clear that Sunday’s earthquake was exceptionally destructive,” said Christopher Rassi, the head of a Red Cross assessment team on Lombok. “I visited villages that were completely collapsed.”

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

There are fears that two collapsed mosques in north Lombok had been filled with worshippers.

Rescuers have found three bodies and also managed to pull one man alive from the twisted wreckage of one mosque in Lading Lading village, while at least one body has been spotted under the rubble in Pemenang.

Authorities are gathering information from family members with missing relatives to determine how many more people may have been in the buildings when they collapsed, national search and rescue agency spokesman Yusuf Latif said.

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