Indonesian rescuers struggle to reach cut-off villages after deadly quake

Thursday, 09 Aug, 2018

The death toll from a powerful natural disaster that hit Indonesia's tourist island of Lombok topped 100 on Tuesday as rescuers found victims under wrecked buildings, while thousands left homeless in the worst-affected areas waited for aid to arrive.

Indonesian search and rescue personnel work on a collapsed mosque in Pemenang, North Lombok on August 6, 2018, the day after a magnitude 6.9 natural disaster struck the area.

Authorities carrying out search and rescue operations said they are having a hard time locating some people and treating the injured. since most of the island's medical resources have been damaged.

The military said five planes carrying food, medicine, blankets, field tents and water tankers left Jakarta for the island early Wednesday.

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

Authorities are still tallying up quake losses, but the value of assets destroyed and other damage could easily top 1 trillion rupiah (£53.8 million), said Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, the spokesman of the National Disaster Mitigation Agency.

He said reports of other deaths still needed to be verified, and the toll is expected to increase.

Rescuers have searched only a tiny portion of the 13,000 damaged buildings and they expect the death toll of more than 100 will rise significantly over the coming week.

Authorities say more than 156,000 people have been displaced by the natural disaster.

"We're pushing about 40 hours without sleep", Montgomery-Lay said.

It's a much needed moment of respite for the family - Montgomery-Lay says they've been awake for nearly 60 hours since being evacuated from their hotel room Sunday night.

While poorly built structures toppled rapidly, much of the island's tourist infrastructure remains more intact than imagery would suggest.

Worldwide charity Oxfam said drinking water was scarce because of a recent spell of extremely dry weather in Lombok.

He added that 80 per cent of buildings had been damaged or destroyed, with thousands displaced.

Earthquakes are also known to cause tsunamis in a number of cases. About 2,700 had left, but several thousand more tourists and hotel employees are waiting to leave, he said. "That's where the epicentre was; we wanted to go to Bali".

"We don't know for sure how many people are alive under the rubble", said Mr Nugroho.

Sunday's quake, recorded at magnitude 6.9 by the U.S. Geological Survey (revised down from 7.0), struck at a depth of 10.5 kilometers in the northern part of Lombok, triggering a brief tsunami warning.

Salama, 52, was at a prayer class in the Karangpangsor village mosque when the quake struck.

"Thank you for your concern - we're all fine - a bit shaken up", he said. Hotels and other buildings in both locations are not allowed to exceed the height of coconut trees.

Lombok lies on the Ring of Fire, a belt surrounding the Pacific Ocean that is especially prone to earthquakes and volcanoes.

The Bali and Lombok airports continued operating on Sunday night, according to the director general of civil aviation.

Visiting the island as a "bucket-list" trip for their daughter Logan, who has cancer, the family felt trapped in their hotel room as more than 130 aftershocks hit the island following the quake.