At least 14 people were killed and scores injured when a magnitude 6.4 earthquake struck the Indonesian island of Lombok, a popular tourist destination, authorities have said. The quake struck at 6.47am local time, and its epicentre was 50km north-east of the city of Mataram, which has a population of 319,000. Tourists near Senggigi reported strong shocks. “We jumped out of our beds to avoid anything falling on our heads. 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,” reported a tourist, who was woken by the quake.”
The Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) reported the islands had experienced more than 100 aftershocks in the four hours after the quake. The head of BMKG Mataram, Agus Riyanto, said the earthquake was also felt in neighboring Bali.
The quake injured 162 people and damaged thousands of houses. Electricity was cut off in the worst-hit area, Sembalun, a sparsely populated area of rice fields and the slopes of Mount Rinjani on the northern side of the island.
The BMKG received a report that the quake had caused a landslide on Mount Rinjani, resulting in the closure of Rinjani’s hiking path. The hike is very popular with western tourists.
A 30-year-old Malaysian woman visiting the mountain was among those killed, said Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, the disaster mitigation agency spokesman.
Hundreds of climbers are being evacuated from the Rinjani national park and 115 have been safely escorted out. “The most pressing needs now are medical personnel, stretchers, health equipment, kids wares and food,” he said.
An emergency tent was set up on a street in Sembalun to treat the injured because the local hospital was damaged, and those in a critical condition were taken to other hospitals.
“It happened so suddenly at around six in the morning. Suddenly everything simply collapsed,” said Siti Sumarni, a Sembalun resident. “My child was inside the house, thankfully he survived.” Standing outside a green tent set up on a dusty field, she said nothing was left of her house.
“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.”
This earthquake was due to movement in the Flores plate, experts said. 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.
The region remains acutely alert, however, 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.
A 6.4 magnitude earthquake is strong enough to cause injuries and damage to buildings, but largely depends on how densely populated the affected area is and how shallow the quake.