JAKARTA (REUTERS, AFP) - A powerful magnitude-6.4 earthquake struck the popular tourist island of Lombok in Indonesia on Sunday (July 29), killing at least 14 people and sending villagers fleeing from their beds into open fields to avoid collapsing buildings.
More than 160 people were injured and thousands of houses were damaged.
Among those killed was 30-year-old Malaysian tourist Siti Nur Ismawida, who was at the foot of Mount Rinjani, a popular trekking destination, when the quake struck early in the morning.
"The victim was inside a restroom when the tremors struck. The entire building collapsed and crushed her," said fellow climber Khairul Azim.
"The situation here is hectic and we're still trying to make contact with the other Malaysian climbers," he told the New Straits Times Press when contacted on Sunday,
Lombok in south-eastern Indonesia is a popular tourist destination, and lies around 100km east of the resort island of Bali.
The quake struck 50km northeast of Lombok's main city Mataram, the USGS said, far from the main tourist spots on the south and west of the island.
"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.
People living near the epicentre said they felt a strong jolt.
"The earthquake was very strong... and everybody in my house panicked, we all ran outside," said Zulkifli, a resident of North Lombok, close to the epicentre.
"All my neighbours also ran outside and the electricity was suddenly cut off," he told AFP.
Indonesia, an archipelago of thousands of islands, sits on the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire, a seismic activity hotspot.
It is frequently hit by quakes, most of them harmless. However, the region remains acutely alert to tremors that might trigger tsunamis.
In 2004, a tsunami triggered by a magnitude 9.3 undersea earthquake off the coast of Sumatra, in western Indonesia, killed 220,000 people in countries around the Indian Ocean, including 168,000 in Indonesia.