Death toll in Lombok landslide rises to 14

The death toll from a powerful magnitude-6.4 earthquake which struck the popular tourist island of Lombok in Indonesia today has climbed to 14 while about 150 Thai tourists are reported to be stranded on the island.

Lombok in south-eastern Indonesia is a tourist destination popular among many Asian tourists, including those from Thailand,  and lies around 100km east of the resort island of Bali.

The Jakarta Post reported that President Joko  Widodo led a meeting on emergency efforts today and later told journalist he had instructed officials from various institutions, including the National Disaster Mitigation Agency, Social Affairs Ministry, Public Works and Housing Ministry and the Indonesian military to work together to help people affected by the disaster.

“We hope [the emergency effort] can be organized this afternoon or tomorrow morning, so [authorities] from central, provincial and regency governments can move together,” the president said in a statement, adding that he would visit survivors  Monday morning.

In a separate statement, the Indonesian Red Cross said it had readied 47 volunteers, two ambulances and six motorcycles to assist with victim evacuation. It  has also sent 250 hygiene kits and 250 blankets from its warehouse in Serang, Banten, as well as body bags and other equipment from Gresik, East Java.

As of Sunday afternoon, the earthquake was reported to have left 14 dead, 162 injured and thousands of homes damaged, according to Jakarta Post.

A Thai female tourist, who identified herself as Irene Tunwakhom, said in her Facebook post that about 150-200 Thais were trapped at the foot of Rinjani volcano on the island but said everyone was safe.

Chaicharn Mugkun, a Thai in Bangkok, told Thai PBS that he had been on the phone with one of his friends on vacation on the island and though the group was safe they could not find their way out of the island.  He said they had already contacted the Thai Embassy in Jakarta and were waiting for help.

Other tourists also told of their narrow escape the minute the earthquake struck. “We jumped out of our beds to avoid anything falling on our heads,” said Jean-Paul Volckaert who was woken by the quake while sleeping in the Puncak Hotel near Senggigi on Lombok.

“I’ve been walking around but so far there is no damage. We were very surprised as the water in the pools was swaying like a wild sea. There were waves in the pools but only for 20 to 30 seconds,” he told Reuters via telephone.

Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, the disaster mitigation agency spokesman, posted on Twitter pictures of houses with collapsed roofs and walls. “People are gathering on the streets and empty fields to avoid collapsing buildings,” he said.

“The main focus now is evacuation and rescue. Some of the injured are still being treated at clinics.”

Around 43 quakes were recorded after the initial 6.4 magnitude tremor, with the largest aftershock recorded at 5.7 magnitude, said the disaster mitigation agency.

The major quake was felt on the neighbouring island of Bali, Indonesia’s top tourist destination.

Island authorities have temporarily closed the hiking trails on Mount Rinjani amid fears of landslides after the quake, Nugroho said.

No tsunami alert was issued, said Hary Tirto Djatmiko, spokesman for Indonesia’s geophysics and meteorology agency, but more than more than 40 aftershocks were recorded.

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