Lack of equipment hinders rescue efforts in Indonesia's Lombok

SINGAPORE (The Straits Times/ANN) - Rescue efforts on Lombok have been hampered by a shortage of heavy-lifting equipment such as excavators, even as hundreds of aftershocks continued to shake the island following Sunday's magnitude-7 earthquake.

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

A magnitude-5.5 tremor rattled Lombok at around 2am yesterday, Indonesia's meteorology and geophysics agency said. A total of 230 aftershocks were recorded by yesterday morning.

West Nusa Tenggara provincial governor Zainul Majdi told The Straits Times that they are de-ploying excavators and heavy equipment to the affected areas as rescuers struggled to reach survivors trapped in the rubble of collapsed buildings.

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)," he said.

The earthquake left a trail of destruction across the popular resort island of Lombok. The quake has killed 105 people, including two in neighbouring Bali, and injured more than 230 others.

During a three-hour journey to North Lombok, the worst-hit district in the island, 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 their loved ones could be rescued soon from the rubble.

At Karang Panncong village, one of the many in northern Lombok that were destroyed by Sunday's earthquake and aftershocks, 28-year-old Lalu Fauzan has been keeping vigil outside a collapsed mosque. He told The Straits Times that his mother remained trapped inside the rubble of the Jami'ul Jama'ah mosque.

"The search-and-rescue team reported they heard a voice from inside. A female's voice who might be our mother's," he said. "It was a voice asking for help, crying. It could be my mother's. Hopefully, she is still alive."

He said that he also tried to call out to his mother, but could no longer hear any response. At least five people are believed to be trapped under the rubble of the collapsed mosque.

Dr Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, spokesman for Indonesia's National Disaster Management Agency, said on Twitter yesterday that evacuation and rescue efforts are still ongoing at the collapsed mosque. He said that there were three dead and one survivor found in the morning.

Tour guide Khaerun Nasir, 46, was among the lucky ones who managed to escape in time.

Recounting Sunday's chaotic scenes, he said most of the worshippers were on the west side of the mosque, away from the main gate in the east. The mosque tilted and collapsed first on its east side before crumbling to the ground.

"I ran out from the south gate and climbed over the mosque's fence. It was a high fence. If it wasn't an emergency, I could never have jumped and climbed over such a high fence."

Lombok had been hit on July 29 by a magnitude-6.4 quake that killed 17 people and left several hundred trekkers stranded on the Mount Rinjani volcano.

"We experienced aftershocks after the July 29 quake... that quake on Sunday night, it felt different, and we all instinctively rushed outside," Mr Khaerun said.

Many of the village's 500 families have temporarily moved to relatives' homes in other villages as electricity and communications were still down, he added.

Photos

No photos has been attached.