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Death toll rises, foreigners evacuated after Lombok, Bali earthquake
Sydney Morning Herald - August 6, 2018
Already, 91 people have been confirmed dead and 209 have been injured after the earthquake hit on Sunday night, while tens of thousands of people have been forced to seek refuge after buildings and houses collapsed.
Lombok's main airport was near-overwhelmed on Monday afternoon by hundreds of local and foreign tourists seeking a rapid escape.
Many tourists who were caught out on the three Gili resort islands described a chaotic trip back to Lombok, with authorities struggling to organise an orderly evacuation.
There were about 1000 tourists on Gili Trawangan, Gili Air and Gili Meno evacuated, but authorities later said the evacuation of low-lying Gili was not mandatory.
The earthquake of 7 magnitude on August 5 caused extensive damage which is still being assessed.
Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, a spokesman for the National Disaster Mitigation Agency, BNPB, said at a briefing on Monday afternoon that the agency believes the death toll will rise.
Mr Sutopo said it was difficult for rescuers to reach victims because of a lack of heavy lifting equipment to assist the rescue operations.
He described a congregation praying at a mosque in Tanjung district, North Lombok, which was hit by the building collapsing when the earthquake struck.
"We believe there are dead people under the debris but we are rescuing them manually. So we don't have any number of how many died under that mosque in Tanjing district," he said.
So far all of the dead are Indonesians but Lombok and the nearby Gilis are popular with foreign tourists, including Australians. There are reports that 19 foreigners have been injured, but it's unclear what countries they are from.
The Department of Foreign Affairs confirmed on Monday afternoon that no Australians were known to have died or been seriously injured as a result of the earthquake.
Australia's Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, who was in Lombok for a regional counter-terrorism meeting, told Fairfax Media the quake "was powerful enough to put us on the floor".
Dutton and his delegation, along with his New Zealand counterpart, have since left their hotel and have gone to Bali, where the quake's effects were less severe. "We were up on the 12th floor, the lights went out and we were able to evacuate," Dutton said.
"I think we were pretty lucky
in the end. Emergency services responded really well. They were able to
evacuate us to safe ground and we are very grateful. There have been no
reports of any local injures that we are aware of but we are anxiously
awaiting further advice on that."
The Indonesian Foreign Affairs Ministry said the Bali Process meeting on people smuggling in Denpasar, which Foreign Minister Julie Bishop is due to attend, will go ahead.
Bishop has arrived in Bali, and said consular staff are being sent to Lombok to assess the damage and assist Australians who might need help.
The most severely damaged area is north Lombok, partly because it is the most populated area. By 8am on Monday morning (10am AEST), there had been more than 132 aftershocks, according to Sutopo.
Bridget O'Kane, from Melbourne, who was holidaying on Gili Air Island, said she and three friends "heard a huge bang, someone said it was an earthquake, and we raced outside".
"I don't think I've ever been so scared in my life. The earthquake itself wasn't so bad, it was the fear of the tsunami afterwards."
She said local people had been very kind, bringing blankets and they spent the night in a field. "In the field there might have been about 100 people with us, a mixture of locals and tourists."
Irish backpackers Sharon Boot and Fiona Hughes were also on Gili Air and "the restaurant we were at literally came down around us".
"All the staff started to run, the lights went out, the whole roof shook. It was mayhem, the place was wrecked, we got out of the restaurant and got back to our hotel.
The pair said there were chaotic scenes on Monday morning as foreign tourists attempted to take boats back to Lombok. "There were no authorities, people were massively overcharging for boats back. It was ridiculous."
Like Ms Boot and Ms Hughes, other foreign tourists at Lombok airport complained about some locals price gouging both for boats to Lombok, and for taxi rides on to the airport.
Hundreds of tourists appeared to have been stranded at Lombok's main airport, and it was unclear if extra flights had been put on to cope with demand.
In one district of North Lombok, an estimated 85 per cent of buildings had collapsed.
The quake hit about 6.46pm Jakarta time (9.46pm AEST) on Sunday, 27 kilometres north-east of northern Lombok at a 15-kilometre depth, triggering a tsunami warning just a week after another quake in the same region killed 16 people.
Most of the fatalities occurred as a result of debris falling from houses that had collapsed in the earthquake.
The epicentre of the quake was the northern slope of Mount Rinjani, near where the previous quake struck a week ago.
Indonesia's BMKG (the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency) issued a tsunami warning soon afterwards, but that warning was lifted about an hour and 45 minutes after the quake hit, at 8.30pm local time.
There were also reports of blackouts and of mobile phone networks going down in northern Lombok, near the epicentre of the quake. Footage of damage to local businesses in Bali quickly emerged, too.
Australian tourist Sarah Lucy Rice, who is in holiday in Canggu, Bali, told Fairfax Media that she and her friends were eating dinner when they felt the ground begin to shake.
"I had one foot on the ground and one foot on a chair and shaking began to increase. Then we realised the earth was moving. Across the road, at a massage parlour, we saw people run out onto the street in towels and sarongs, and that's when we moved," she said.
At the Matahari shopping centre in Denpasar, staff had a major clean-up job ahead of them after roof tiles were shaken down onto the street below after the earthquake hit.
Indonesia's minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs, former General Wiranto, said the regional counter-terrorism summit had been postponed following the earthquake.
"All delegates who will participate are safe. And due to the quake we decided to postpone the sub-regional meeting on counter-terrorism and let delegates go back to their countries," Wiranto said.
Australian actress Teresa Palmer is among a number of celebrities holidaying on Bali who tweeted about the quake.
US model and television presenter Chrissy Teigen posted a series of brief updates on her Twitter profile. The host of Lip Sync Battle initially wrote: "Oh my god. Bali. Trembling. So long," before adding "Phewwwwww," indicating that the tremors had stopped.
Teigen, 32, is with her husband, singer John Legend, and their two young children, Luna and Miles.
The former Sports Illustrated cover star revealed the house in which they are staying is elevated from the ground, which added to the terrifying experience. Teigen wrote: "Oh man. We are on stilts. It felt like a ride. 15 solid seconds of 'holy shit this is happening."
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 due to its location on the Pacific "Ring of Fire", an arc of volcanoes and faultlines 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.
-- with AP