Indonesia quake : Search on for survivors

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Asianbangla Desk : The death toll from a powerful earthquake that hit Indonesia’s tourist island of Lombok topped 100 yesterday as rescuers found victims under wrecked buildings, while thousands left homeless in the worst-affected areas waited for aid to arrive.

A woman was pulled alive from the rubble of a collapsed grocery store in the north, near the epicentre of Sunday’s 6.9 magnitude quake, the second tremor to rock the tropical island in a week.

That was a rare piece of good news as hopes of finding more survivors faded and a humanitarian crisis loomed for thousands left homeless by the disaster in the rural area and in desperate need of clean water, food, medicine and shelter.

Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, the spokesman of Indonesia’s disaster mitigation agency (BNPB) put the toll at 105, including two on the neighbouring island of Bali to the west, where the quake was also felt – and the figure was expected to rise.

Lombok had already been hit by a 6.4 magnitude earthquake on July 29 that killed 17 people and briefly stranded several hundred trekkers on the slopes of a volcano.

Indonesia sits on the Pacific Ring of Fire and is regularly hit by earthquakes. In 2004, the Indian Ocean tsunami killed 226,000 people in 13 countries, including more than 120,000 in Indonesia.

Few buildings were left standing in Kayangan on the island’s northern end, where residents told Reuters that as many as 40 died.

Some villagers used sledgehammers and ropes to start clearing the rubble of broken homes, but others, traumatised by continued aftershocks, were too afraid to venture far from tents and tarpaulins set up in open spaces.

Sunday’s earthquake triggered at least 230 aftershocks, which were expected to continue for the next two weeks, experts said.

Thousands of tourists have left Lombok since Sunday evening, fearing further earthquakes, some on extra flights added by airlines and some on ferries to Bali.

Officials said about 4,600 foreign and domestic tourists had been evacuated from the three Gili islands off the northwest coast of Lombok, where two people died and fears of a tsunami spread soon after the quake.

Saffron Amis, a British student on Gili Trawangan – the largest of the islands fringed by white beaches and surrounded by turquoise sea – said at least 200 people were stranded there with more flowing in from the other two, Gili Air and Gili Meno.

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