Indonesia quake deaths top 130, aid effort intensifies
BANGSAL, Indonesia (AP) — Aid began reaching isolated areas of the Indonesian island struggling after a powerful earthquake that killed more than 130 people as rescuers intensified efforts Wednesday to find those buried in the rubble.
The national disaster agency stood by its latest death toll of 131 from Sunday’s quake despite other government agencies including the military reporting much higher figures.
The governor of the province that includes Lombok where the quake was centered, the military, the national search and rescue agency and regent of North Lombok issued different death tolls that ranged from 226 to 381.
But disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said in a statement the information from those sources was incomplete and hadn’t been cross-checked for duplication. He has said several times that the number of deaths will increase. An interagency meeting will be held Thursday to compare information, Nugroho said.
As the aid effort stepped up, volunteers and rescue personnel erected more temporary shelters for the tens of thousands left homeless on Lombok by the magnitude 7.0 quake.
Water, which has been in short supply due to a prolonged dry spell on the island, as well as food and medical supplies were being distributed from trucks. The military said it sent five planes carrying food, medicine, blankets, field tents and water tankers.
Still, government assistance was barely a trickle in the west Lombok village of Kekait where Zulas Triani, an elementary school teacher who was sharing a tent with 30 others, said they had received only a basket with three noodle packets, five eggs and a small ration of water.
“My house was flattened. We are all frustrated to live like this — in a tent without certainty. Where should we go if we have no house anymore, nowhere to live?” said the mother of 15- and 9-year-old girls.
“I don’t know how to rebuild on my own. We’re all relying on the government to help. I do hope the government can help,” she said.
Nearly 1,500 people have been hospitalized with serious injuries and more than 156,000 have been displaced due to the extensive damage to thousands of homes. Thousands of people have been sleeping in makeshift shelters or out in the open.
At a collapsed mosque in Bangsal district, emergency workers in orange uniforms removed a woman’s body from the ruins on Wednesday morning. A green and yellow dome rested on the pile of rubble, the only part of the structure still intact.
Authorities said all the tourists who wanted to be evacuated from three outlying vacation islands due to power blackouts and damage to hotels had left by boat, some 5,000 people in all.
The quake was the second in a week to hit Lombok. A magnitude 6.4 earthquake on July 29 killed 16 people and cracked and weakened many structures, amplifying the damage that occurred in Sunday’s quake.
Like its famous neighbor Bali, Lombok is known for beaches, mountains and a lush interior. Hotels and other buildings in both locations are not allowed to exceed the height of coconut trees.
Indonesia is prone to earthquakes because of its location on the “Ring of Fire,” an arc of volcanoes and fault lines 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.
Associated Press writers Niniek Karmini and Todd Pitman in Kekait, Indonesia, and Ali Kotarumalos in Jakarta, Indonesia, contributed to this report.