The death toll from an earthquake on Indonesia’s Lombok Island has risen to 142, Rosiady Sayuti, Secretary to the West Nusa Tenggara provincial administration said on Monday.
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Sayut told the broadcaster Metro TV that 142 people died as a result of Sunday’s 6.9-magnitude earthquake, “many houses are completely flattened.”
Sutopo Nugroho, the spokesman for the National Disaster Management Agency, declined to confirm the report because he had put the official death toll at 91 but said it was sure to increase.
He said that thousands of homes and other buildings were damaged in Sunday’s quake, forcing residents to seek refuge elsewhere.
The districts of North Lombok, East Lombok and Mataram were the hardest hit, Nugroho said, adding that most of the victims “died after being hit by debris from collapsing buildings.”
The search for more victims was hampered by power and communication blackouts, he said.
The earthquake flattened a two-story mosque where locals had been praying, but rescuers were not able to retrieve the victims, Nugroho added.
“Most likely there are casualties but the victims had not been retrieved because there is no heavy equipment,” he said.
The quake on Sunday struck exactly a week after a slightly weaker one caused 20 deaths on the resort island of Lombok.
The latest one hit at 7:46 pm (1146 GMT), with an epicentre 18 kilometres north-east of North Lombok and at a depth of 15 kilometres, according to the Indonesian Agency for Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics.
The quake triggered a tsunami warning that was later lifted.
Television footage showed patients attached to intravenous drips being treated in the grounds of hospitals.
“There are about five to 15 fatalities from each village so we expect the casualties to go up,” North Lombok district chief Najmul Akhyar told Metro TV.
Meanwhile, rescuers evacuated about 1,000 domestic and foreign tourists from the Gili resort islets off Lombok, Nugroho said.
There were no casualties among tourists there, despite reports of damage, he said.
The earthquake was also felt on the neighbouring island of Bali and in the eastern part of East Java province.
There was superficial damage in parts of Bali’s Ngurah Rai international airport building but operations were not affected, an airport official said.
On July 29, a 6.4-magnitude quake caused landslides that blocked hiking routes and left hundreds of local and foreign hikers stranded on a volcano.
Indonesia is currently hosting two ministerial-level conferences on regional security and counter-terrorism in Bali and Lombok.
Chief security minister Wiranto, who is in Lombok with his regional counterparts from Australia, New Zealand and Myanmar, said that a meeting on counter-terrorism, which was set to be held on Monday, had been cancelled.
Wiranto had been hosting a welcoming dinner for the delegations at a hotel in Mataram when the quake struck.
President Joko Widodo said he had ordered Wiranto to coordinate emergency efforts “so that assistance can reach the victims as quickly as possible.”
Indonesia sits on the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire, an area known for frequent volcanic eruptions and earthquakes.