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Massive Relief Efforts Underway In Indonesia After Quake Shakes Lombok

Nearly 100 were reported dead in a magnitude 7.0 earthquake.
06 August 2018, 9:28am
A local resident stands in front of a badly damaged school in a village in North Lombok. Photo by Beawiharta/Reuters

Relief efforts were underway on Monday on the Indonesian island of Lombok after a powerful magnitude 7.0 earthquake shook the island Sunday night, leveling homes and killing nearly 100 in the second major quake to hit the island in a week. According to early reports, more than 200 people were injured in the quake, some as far away as neighboring Bali. The island, in West Nusa Tenggara, is now under a state of emergency as the country's disaster relief agency rushes to help thousands of displaced residents, as well as a large number of foreign tourists who were on holiday at the time.

Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, the spokesmen for the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB), shared videos from the island, including the following scene of evacuees crowding a beach at the popular Gili Islands that showed the sheer scale of the relief efforts currently underway. There were an estimated 1,000 tourists—both Indonesian and foreign—on the Gilis at the time of the quake.

By Monday, all 1,000 were evacuated back to mainland Lombok. Early reports indicate that only one person was killed by the quake on the Gilis.

Elsewhere, the damage was far more severe. Communities in North Lombok, especially around the slopes of Mount Rinjani, were among the hardest hit. The death toll near Rinjani climbed to 72 by Monday as homes, schools, and hospitals were damaged in the quake. In total, 91 people were confirmed dead by Monday, all of them Indonesian citizens.

President Joko Widodo expressed his sadness at the loss and told the public that help was on the way.

"Personally as well as on behalf of the nation I want to express my grief for what happened to our people in West Nusa Tenggara,” Jokowi told local media. “Last night logistical aid has been sent to West Nusa Tenggara, and the doctors are on their way, too.”

Survivors described a terrifying ordeal that left houses flattened in a matter of moments.

“The vibration was like a thunder clap, only even worse," Sutrahan, a 63-year-old resident of East Lombok who lost his house to the quake, told CNN Indonesia. "It was terrifying and really fast."

Initial reports of a potential tsunami only added to the terror as survivors, many still shocked by the quake itself, suddenly had to flee to higher ground. The tsunami warning itself ended up being a false alarm, but the panic was very real.

"People were panicking... especially because of the early tsunami warning," Sutopo, the BNPB spokesman, told AFP.

Flights and ferries to and from the island were operating as normal on Monday but the facilities were crowded with tourists, some of them clearly having fled with a moment's notice, trying to return home. Airport operator PT Angkasa Pura plans to add additional flights to meet the demand.

For the tourists in Lombok, the ordeal was almost over by Monday. But for the thousands of people affected by the quake, the relief efforts—and eventual reconstruction—were only just beginning. The central government already set aside reconstruction funds for those who lost their homes, as well as payments to the families of the deceased.

But it's also in the process of setting up tents to house the displaced, warning them to not return to the rubble of their destroyed homes because it might not be safe. The Minister of Social Affairs, Idrus Marham, said that the island was already dealing with the fallout from a previous earthquake earlier last week, which had already killed 17 and damaged hundreds of buildings.

The minister suggested relocating the worst-hit villages entirely instead of rebuilding them in the same location, warning the evacuees not to return home just yet.

"Those who had their home ruined in the disaster shouldn’t go to their house," Idrus told local media. "We will build makeshift camps."

This story is still developing. We'll have more as additional reports come in.