Over 2,000 tourists flee tragedy on Lombok

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Hundreds of people attempt to leave Gili Trawangan, north of neighbouring Lombok island on Monday, a day after a 6.9 magnitude earthquake struck the area. Handout/Indonesia Water Police/AFP

Over 2,000 tourists flee tragedy on Lombok

More than 2,000 tourists had been evacuated on Monday after Indonesia sent rescuers fanning out across the holiday island of Lombok following a powerful earthquake that killed at least 98 people and damaged thousands of buildings.

The shallow 6.9-magnitude quake sparked terror among tourists and locals alike, coming just a week after another deadly tremor surged through Lombok and killed 17 people.

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

National disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said there were fears a number of people were trapped in the ruins of a collapsed mosque in the northern village of Lading-Lading. Footage he posted on Twitter showed the large concrete mosque had pancaked.

A lack of heavy equipment and shattered roads were hampering efforts to reach survivors in the mountainous north and east of the island, which had been hardest hit.

Najmul Akhyar, the head of North Lombok district, estimated that 80 percent of that region was damaged by the quake.

“We expect the number of fatalities to keep rising,” Nugroho said. “All victims who died are Indonesians.”

He said up to 20,000 people may have had to quit their homes on Lombok and paramedics, food and medication were badly needed.

The spokesman said search and rescue teams also rescued between 2,000 and 2,700 tourists from the Gili Islands, three tiny, coral-fringed tropical islands a few kilometres off the northwest coast of Lombok.

Authorities initially said 1,200 people were stuck on the islands but scaled up the figure early in the evening. Some tourists chose to stay behind.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Indonesian search and rescue personnel work on a collapsed mosque in Pemenang, North Lombok on Monday. AFP

Footage online from Nugroho showed hundreds crowded onto powder-white beaches desperately awaiting transport off the normally paradise Gilis.

“We cannot evacuate all of them all at once because we don’t have enough capacity on the boats,” Muhammad Faozal, the head of the tourism agency in West Nusa Tenggara province, said, adding that two navy vessels were on their way.

“It’s understandable they want to leave the Gilis, they are panicking.”

By early afternoon, hundreds of weary tourists had arrived with their baggage at Bangsal harbour, the main link between Lombok and the Gilis.

Margret Helgadottir, a holidaymaker from Iceland, described people screaming as the roof of her hotel on one of the islands collapsed.

“We just froze: thankfully we were outside,” she said tearfully from a harbour in Lombok to where she had been evacuated. “Everything went black, it was terrible.”

Seven Indonesian holidaymakers died on the largest of the three islands, Gili Trawangan, while another local woman died on nearby Bali.

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