Rescuers scramble in search for Lombok quake survivors as death toll rises

A body being evacuated from Jami’ul Jama’ah Mosque in Karang Pangsor village, North Lombok, on Aug 8, 2018.
A body being evacuated from Jami’ul Jama’ah Mosque in Karang Pangsor village, North Lombok, on Aug 8, 2018.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG
Officials at the site estimated seven people were still under the remains of the mosque.
Officials at the site estimated seven people were still under the remains of the mosque.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG
The quake killed 105 people and 236 were severely injured. Thousands have been made homeless.
The quake killed 105 people and 236 were severely injured. Thousands have been made homeless.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

Rescuers on Wednesday (Aug 8) were frantically searching for survivors under collapsed buildings after a powerful earthquake struck the island on Sunday

Officials appealed for more aid as the scale of the disaster became clear. Thousands have been made homeless and more than 156,000 people were evacuated or placed in shelters, particularly at the north of the island near the epicentre of the quake, which struck when many people were in local mosques for evening prayers. 

A focus for rescuers is a mosque in Karang Pangsor village in North Lombok, which collapsed with worshippers still inside. 

Personnel from Basarnas (Indonesia's search and rescue agency), the military and rescue teams from private mining companies operating in Indonesia are searching through the flattened remains of the Jami'ul Jama'ah mosque.

The Straits Times saw an excavator digging through the rubble of the mosque as anxious villagers looked on, hoping that people were still alive under the ruins.

It has been a long wait for villagers. The excavator arrived about 60 hours after the quake hit on Sunday evening.

On Wednesday, rescuers retrieved the body of a woman from the rubble, but more victims are believed to be inside. 

Mr Sardi Amin from Basarnas told The Straits Times: "We have so far evacuated one victim. We will continue to evacuate the victims until no one is left under there."

In a separate part of North Lombok on Tuesday, rescuers in Lading-Lading village pulled out a few bodies and one survivor from the collapsed Jabbal Nur mosque.

Rescue efforts have been hampered by a shortage of heavy-lifting equipment such as excavators, and hundreds of aftershocks that continued to shake the island following Sunday's magnitude-7 earthquake.

The death toll rose to 131, and 1,477 were severely injured, the National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB) said in a briefing.

"The number of victims keep rising," BNPB spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho told reporters on Wednesday. He said tens of thousands of houses had collapsed.

There are fears the death toll will keep rising, even as rescuers step up the search of damaged or destroyed homes, schools and mosques.

The quake also affected parts of neighbouring Bali.

"The efforts to evacuate people have been intensified, but there are still a lot of problems on the ground," Mr Sutopo said.

West Nusa Tenggara provincial governor Zainul Majdi told The Straits Times on Tuesday that they are deploying excavators and heavy equipment to the affected areas.

Heavy equipment from Jakarta, from the army strategic reserve unit and the marines, was also set to arrive. "We have also asked private companies, construction companies to help by deploying their heavy equipment to participate (in the rescue efforts)," the governor said.

Mr Zainul said there was an urgent need for medical staff, food and medicine in the worst-hit areas. Injured victims have been treated outside damaged hospitals in the main city of Mataram and other badly affected areas.

"We have limited human resources. Some paramedics have to be at the shelters, some need to be mobile," Mr Zainul told Agence France-Presse (AFP). "The scale of this quake is massive for us here in West Nusa Tenggara; this is our first experience."

 

For many, the arrival of heavy equipment can't come soon enough as they await news of loved ones believed to be trapped under collapsed buildings.

Mr Hendry Achmad, a rescuer from Berau Coal, who was helping out at the Jami'ul Jama'ah mosque, which collapsed like a stack of pancakes, said that in such cases, the chances of survival were slim because there were few, if any, voids or spaces for survivors to take refuge.

Across North Lombok, many houses and other buildings have been destroyed or badly damaged.

This reporter saw collapsed buildings, damaged roads, broken water pipes and crushed vehicles, and met survivors who shared stories of hope and despair.

Some recounted their lucky escapes, while others held out hope that missing loved ones could be rescued.

The quake also affected tourists.  A total of 8,381 tourists, locals and workers of hotels and resorts on the three Gili islands - Gili Trawangan, Gili Air and Gili Meno - had been evacuated as of late afternoon on Tuesday, BNPB said. The Gilis are just off the north-west coast of Lombok.