Panic as multiple earthquakes jolt Lombok, causing landslides

Locals on edge after earthquakes hit the island earlier this month and last month, killing hundreds of people

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 19 August, 2018, 1:07pm
UPDATED : Monday, 20 August, 2018, 1:02am

Multiple earthquakes -- including a powerful and shallow 6.9-magnitude tremor -- struck Indonesia’s Lombok on Sunday, sending fresh panic coursing through the already battered island.

Three significant quakes were recorded by seismologists on Sunday, the first a 6.3 shortly before midday which triggered landslides and sent people fleeing for cover.

It was followed nearly twelve hours later by a late evening quake measuring 6.9 and an aftershock soon after of 5.9 strength according to the US Geological Survey.

The picturesque island is already reeling from two devastating quakes on July 29 and August 5 that killed nearly 500 people and made hundreds of thousands homeless.

There were no immediate reports of casualties or damage from the late evening quakes on an island where many have chosen to sleep in tents in recent weeks because of regular aftershocks.

The quake was followed by a magnitude 7.2 quake that struck in the sea 124 km (75 miles) north-northeast of the holiday island at a very shallow depth of 1 km, the United States Geological Survey said.

There was no immediate tsunami alert from the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center.

Earlier this month a quake killed more than 430 people on the island. Video shot by the Indonesian Red Cross showed huge clouds of dust billowing from the mountain’s slopes.

“The earthquake caused people to panic and flee their houses,” national disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho told Metro TV. “There have been no reports of death or [serious] damage but people are traumatised.”

At least one person suffered minor injuries while two more fainted from shock, he added.

Landslides were reported in a national park on Mount Rinjani where hundreds of hikers were briefly trapped after the quake in late July. The park has been closed since then.

Local disaster mitigation agency spokesman Agung Pramuja said several houses and other structures in the district of Sembalun, on the slopes of Mount Rinjani, collapsed on Sunday after being damaged by the previous two quakes.

The structures included checkpoints once used by trekkers climbing the mountain, Pramuja said, adding that the exact number of damaged buildings was still being checked.

Residents said the latest earthquake was felt strongly in East Lombok.

“I was driving to deliver aid to evacuees when suddenly the electricity pole was swaying. I realised it was an earthquake. People started to scream and cry. They all ran to the street,” said East Lombok resident Agus Salim.

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The tremor was also felt in the island’s capital Mataram and on the neighbouring resort island of Bali.

“Everybody ran outside their house. They’re all gathering in an open field, still terrified,” said Endri Susanto, a children’s rights activist in Mataram. “People are traumatised by the previous earthquakes and aftershocks never seem to stop.”

The latest tremor comes two weeks after a shallow 6.9-magnitude quake on August 5 damaged tens of thousands of homes, mosques and businesses across Lombok.

At least 481 people died and thousands were injured.

The hardest-hit region was in the north of the island, which has suffered hundreds of aftershocks.

A week before that quake, a tremor surged through the island and killed 17.

Earthquake lifted Indonesian island of Lombok by 10cm, aftershocks continue

The August 5 quake left more than 350,000 displaced, with many sleeping under tents or tarpaulins near their ruined homes or in evacuation shelters, while makeshift medical facilities were set up to treat the injured.

Badly damaged roads, particularly in the mountainous north of the island, are a headache for relief agencies trying to distribute aid.

The economic toll of the quake is estimated to be at least five trillion rupiah (US$348 million).

Nicknamed “The Island of a Thousand Mosques”, Muslim-majority Lombok is a less popular destination than its neighbour Bali, the Hindu-majority island that is the backbone of Indonesia’s US$19.4 billion tourist sector.

But Lombok had been earmarked as one of Indonesian President Joko Widodo’s “10 new Balis”, with the regional government hoping to develop it into a major destination – especially in the booming halal tourism sector.

Additional reporting by Associated Press