August 7, 2018 – Thousands left homeless by a powerful quake that ruptured roads and flattened buildings on the Indonesian tourist island of Lombok sheltered last night in makeshift tents as authorities said rescuers hadn’t yet reached all devastated areas and expect the toll of 98 dead to climb.
It was the second deadly quake in a week to hit Lombok, a less-developed island compared with its more famous neighbor Bali, where the strong tremors caused panic and damaged buildings.
A July 29 quake killed 16 people and damaged hundreds of houses on Lombok, some of which collapsed in Sunday evening’s quake, measured at magnitude 7.0 by Indonesian authorities and 6.9 by the U.S. Geological Survey.
Damage was “massive” in mountainous northern Lombok, where the quake was centered, said National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho. In several districts, more than half the homes were destroyed or severely damaged.
A large mosque collapsed on worshippers in northern Lombok’s Lading-Lading village, and rescuers used a backhoe to search the debris. The number of victims was unknown.
Some areas still hadn’t been reached 24 hours after the quake because of collapsed bridges, blocked and ruptured roads and the loss of power and communications.
Nugroho said the death toll had risen to 98 and warned it will continue to increase. All but two of were killed on Lombok; the others died on Bali.
More than 230 people were seriously injured. Thousands of homes and buildings were damaged and those displaced camped wherever they could — in sports fields and on roadsides, cobbling together ramshackle shelters and building campfires for warmth.
Sahril, who uses one name, said he escaped his collapsing house in North Lombok with his immediate family, but his older brother is buried in his flattened home in the village of Cubek.
“He was serving customers when the earthquake happened. The customers managed to escape, but he himself didn’t,” Sahril said. “His two-story house collapsed and buried him. He had no chance to scream (for) help.”
The quake struck at a shallow depth of 10.5 kilometers (6 miles). Shallow quakes tend to cause more damage than deeper ones.
“We were sitting there having dinner at about 7 o’clock last night, we just felt a really big sort of shaking and the lights went off and everyone just ran,” Australian tourist Kim Liebelt said as he waited with other travelers for a flight out at Lombok’s international airport.
“And then the roof started falling down on us, rocks and rubble and then just everyone running to get away,” he said.
Videos showed screaming people running in panic from a shopping mall and a neighborhood in Bali where parked vehicles swayed. On Lombok, soldiers and other rescuers carried the injured on stretchers and carpets. Many were treated outdoors because hospitals were damaged.
“People panicked and scattered on the streets, and buildings and houses that had been damaged by the previous earthquake had become more damaged and collapsed,” Nugroho said.
The quake triggered a tsunami warning, and frightened people rushed from their homes to higher ground, particularly in North Lombok and Mataram, the capital of West Nusa Tenggara province. The warning was lifted after only small waves were recorded.
“When it happened, we stood with residents in the middle of the street and watched houses collapse around us,” said Yustrianda Sirio, supervisor of a group of university students from Java doing a community service program in East Lombok. “Many of us screamed hysterically.”
He said the group already had been staying in tents after the July 29 quake, but now officials told them to return to Java.
“We really want to stay here to help the villagers,” he said.
On Gili Trawangan, one of three popular vacation islands near Lombok, thousands of tourists and residents spent Sunday night on a hill because of tsunami fears, said British visitor Saffron Amis.
“There was a lot of screaming and crying, particularly from the locals,” said Amis, from Brighton. “We spoke to a lot of them and they were panicking about their family in Lombok. It was just a lot of panic because no one knew what was happening.”
By Monday morning, with electricity off and hotels and hostels damaged, thousands were desperate to leave.
Hundreds packed a sliver of brilliant white sand beach on the 16-square-kilometer (6-square-mile) Trawangan island, shouting at rescue personnel trying to ensure an orderly evacuation, according to video and photos from the local water police.
Nugroho said authorities deployed ships to evacuate people from the three islands. About 2,700 had left, but several thousand more tourists and hotel employees are waiting to leave, he said.
Like Bali, Lombok is known for pristine beaches and mountains. Hotels and other buildings in both locations are not allowed to exceed the height of coconut trees.
Indonesia is prone to earthquakes because of its location on the “Ring of Fire,” an arc of volcanoes and fault lines in the Pacific Basin. In December 2004, a massive magnitude 9.1 earthquake off Sumatra triggered a tsunami that killed 230,000 people in a dozen countries.
Australian Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, in Lombok for a regional security meeting, said he and his delegation were dining in their hotel’s 12th-floor restaurant when the quake struck, plunging the building into darkness and throwing people to the floor.
“Mate, we were knocked certainly to the floor. It was the violence of the shaking of the building — was pretty dramatic,” he said in a radio interview. “Everyone’s a bit shaken, but all well. But people out in the villages or elsewhere haven’t been so lucky, unfortunately.”
The Bali and Lombok airports have stayed open.
Model Chrissy Teigen, who was in Bali with singer-husband John Legend and their two children, live-tweeted the shaking.
“Bali. Trembling. So long,” Teigen tweeted to her 10.6 million followers.
Hours later, she asked news organizations not to write more stories about her lively stream-of-consciousness tweets, suggesting media focus instead on those who need help.