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More than 70,000 homeless after deadly Lombok quake

  • Villagers resting at an evacuation center in Lapangan Tanjung in northern Lombok. Photo courtesy: AFP
  • Injured villagers waiting for treatment at an evacuation center at Lapangan Tanjung in northern Lombok. Photo courtesy: AFP

By Kiki Siregar

Mataram (AFP) -- More than 70,000 people have been left homeless in the deadly earthquake that hit Lombok island, forced to sleep in makeshift shelters and lacking food, medicine and clean water, authorities said Wednesday.

The shallow 6.9-magnitude quake killed at least 105 people and triggered panic among locals and tourists on Lombok on Sunday, just a week after another tremor surged through the holiday island and killed 17.

Some 236 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.

"The efforts to evacuate people have been intensified but there are still a lot of problems on the ground," national disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said Wednesday.

"The number of victims keep rising. More than 70,000 people have been evacuated and tens of thousands of houses have collapsed."

There are fears the death toll will rise as workers with heavy machinery claw through the rubble of homes, schools and mosques, with hopes 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 told AFP.

"The scale of this quake is massive for us here in West Nusa Tenggara, this is our first experience."

'Destruction almost 100 percent'

Across much of the island, 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.

"It's typical of earthquake victims in Indonesia, they want to stay close to their livelihood, they can't bring their livestock to the shelters," Hadi said.

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.

Tourists flee

The tremor 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 Wednesday for survivors in the mosque, now reduced to 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," Yusuf Latif, national search and rescue team spokesman, told AFP.

Lombok airport's general manager said airlines had laid on extra flights and his staff had been providing blankets and snacks.

 

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