Race is on to evacuate trekkers from Mount Rinjani following 6.4 magnitude quake

The Indonesian Kopassus special forces troops leaving an air base in East Jakarta for Lombok to support rescue efforts in evacuating climbers trapped on Mount Rinjani.
The Indonesian Kopassus special forces troops leaving an air base in East Jakarta for Lombok to support rescue efforts in evacuating climbers trapped on Mount Rinjani.PHOTO: PUSPEN TNI
President Joko Widodo visiting victims of the quake at a makeshift shelter in Sambelia district, East Lombok regency, on July 30, 2018.
President Joko Widodo visiting victims of the quake at a makeshift shelter in Sambelia district, East Lombok regency, on July 30, 2018.PHOTO: ISTANA
The Indonesian Kopassus special forces troops leaving an air base in East Jakarta for Lombok to support rescue efforts in evacuating climbers trapped on Mount Rinjani.
The Indonesian Kopassus special forces troops leaving an air base in East Jakarta for Lombok to support rescue efforts in evacuating climbers trapped on Mount Rinjani.PHOTO: PUSPEN TNI
An aid shelter in Sembalun, a town located near Mount Rinjani.
An aid shelter in Sembalun, a town located near Mount Rinjani.PHOTO: MEITA ANNISSA
A Sembalun resident being treated at an aid shelter.
A Sembalun resident being treated at an aid shelter.PHOTO: MEITA ANNISSA
A group of students from the National University of Singapore were in Lombok for a two week-long visit when the island was struck by a 6.4-magnitude quake on July 29, 2018.
A group of students from the National University of Singapore were in Lombok for a two week-long visit when the island was struck by a 6.4-magnitude quake on July 29, 2018.PHOTO: MOHAMMAD AZFAR BIN SAARI/PROJECT ASA RE-ACH

JAKARTA - Rescuers are racing against time to to evacuate more than 560 people from Mount Rinjani on Lombok, after a 6.4-magnitude quake struck the island in West Nusa Tenggara province on Sunday morning (July 29).

Among them are five Singaporean climbers, said the National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB) on Monday.

The Indonesian military (TNI) has also deployed its Kopassus special forces troops to support rescue efforts in hard-to-reach areas on the mountain and to distribute aid.

The quake has claimed 16 lives, said local authorities, and the fatalities include a Malaysian woman and a climber from South Sulawesi province, who died in Mount Rinjani National Park.

The climber, identified as Muhammad Ainul Muksin, was hit by a landslide during the quake. His body has not been recovered because, as a precaution, the trail to his location is closed.

Malaysian Siti Nur Ismawida, 30, died after she was buried under the rubble of a guest-house in which she was staying on Mount Rinjani, officials said on Monday.

She was among 820 trekkers, including 637 foreigners, who were in the vicinity of Mount Rinjani during the earthquake.

More than 335 people in Lombok were injured and about 5,100 or so displaced after their homes were damaged by the quake.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo boarded a military helicopter on Monday morning to inspect the area.

 
 
 

He also visited victims to reassure them that the government will support the recovery efforts, including giving aid to residents whose homes were destroyed.

"We want to convey our deepest sorrows for this disaster, especially for the deceased," said Mr Joko on Monday afternoon after his visit to a makeshift shelter in Sambelia district in East Lombok regency.

Indonesia sits on the Pacific Ring of Fire, a belt of seismic activity that runs around the Pacific Ocean, where 90 per cent of the world's quakes occur, according to the United States Geological Survey.

This latest Lombok quake comes amid worries over the conditions at Mount Agung, a volcano in nearby Bali that has been erupting periodically since it rumbled back to life last November, causing dozens of flight cancellations after it spewed ash into the sky.

Volcanic activity in Bali, however, has since slowed but Indonesia remains on edge as any eruption in the region will likely affect the International Monetary Fund-World Bank annual meetings set to be held in Bali from Oct 12.

Both Lombok and Bali, however, continue to attract hordes of visitors, including 337 Thai tourists reportedly trapped on Mount Rinjani owing to Sunday's quake.

A group of 20 from the National University of Singapore that was in Lombok as part of Project ASA RE-ACH, a community outreach programme started by NUS Muslim Society members, has made their way to safety.

NUS said that, as a precautionary move, arrangements had been made for the students to return to Singapore Tuesday.

The group's project director, Mr Mohammad Azfar Bin Saari, told The Straits Times from Lombok that some members of the group were at the beach in Labuan Pandan when the earthquake struck.

"I heard this loud rumbling noise and felt the ground starting to shake, and somehow I knew it was an earthquake and quickly warned my group-mates, telling them to squat and stay low to avoid any injuries," said Mr Azfar.

He added that local residents also told them to move inland quickly in case of a tsunami and they set up camp near Sembalun where they will remain until it was time to head to the airport for their flight.

"I pray the people of Lombok will recover from this unfortunate event," said Mr Azfar.

"From the last eight days of being here, it is evident the people are full of sincerity and a close-knit bunch. I hope they will be provided with the aid they need."

Nightfall, and intermittent landslides as well as falling rocks continue to hamper rescue efforts, said medical shelter coordinator Asrihadi, who goes by just one name.

"The local public clinics in Sembalun have also been totally destroyed, so the TNI is setting up a field hospital, but we do not know when the Mount Rinjani trail will be opened again to continue our evacuation," he added.

Lombok airport remains open, and regional carrier SilkAir said Monday that none of its flights between Singapore and the island are affected by the earthquake.

Singapore travel agencies Chan Brothers Travel and Dynasty Travel, said upcoming tours to Lombok remain unaffected for now, but a Dynasty Travel spokesman said they are monitoring the situation. Additional reporting by Meita Annissa and Tiffany Fumiko Tay