Death toll rises after earthquake hits Indonesian tourist island

Villagers walk near destroyed homes (AP Photo/ Rosidin) Credit: AP/Press Association Images

A strong earthquake has killed at least 14 people and injured more than 160 on Indonesia’s Lombok island, officials said.

The quake damaged more than 1,000 houses on the popular tourist island and was felt in a wider area, including on the neighbouring island of Bali, where no damage or casualties were reported.

The US Geological Survey said the 6.4 magnitude quake struck at a depth of only 4.4 miles. Shallow earthquakes tend to do more damage than deeper ones.

East Lombok district was the hardest hit with 10 deaths, including a Malaysian tourist, said Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, a spokesman for Indonesia’s Disaster Mitigation Agency.

The number of casualties could increase as data is still being collected from other locations on the island, he said.

At least 162 people were injured, including 67 taken to hospital with serious injuries, Mr Nugroho said.

The quake caused blackouts in East Lombok and North Lombok districts and triggered a large landslide from Mount Rinjani. Rescuers were evacuating more than 800 tourists from the mountain.

The damage caused by the earthquake on Lombok Credit: Indonesia’s Disaster Mitigation Agency/AP

In East Lombok and the provincial capital of Mataram, the quake lasted about 10 seconds, causing residents to flee their homes on to streets and fields, Mr Nugroho said. He added that most of the fatalities and injuries were caused by falling slabs of concrete.

Photos released by the disaster agency showed damaged houses and the entrance to the popular Mount Rinjani National Park, which was immediately closed for fear of landslides.

Television footage showed residents remaining outside, fearing aftershocks, as the injured were being treated on mattresses taken out of their partially damaged houses and patients were wheeled out of a hospital.

Eka Fathurrahman, the police chief in East Lombok, said the Malaysian woman who died was part of a group of 18 Malaysian tourists who had just visited Mount Rinjani when the quake jolted their guesthouse and toppled a concrete wall. Six other people were injured at the guesthouse.

Mr Fathurrahman said many injured people who were treated outside a damaged clinic were taken to the main hospital farther away after more ambulances reached the devastated location in East Lombok’s Sembalun village.

Medics treat victims in Sembalun village Credit: Rosidin/AP

Indonesia’s meteorology and geophysics agency recorded more than 130 aftershocks.

Like Bali, Lombok is known for pristine beaches and mountains. Hotels and other buildings in both locations are not allowed to exceed the height of coconut trees.

Indonesia is prone to earthquakes due to its location on the Pacific “Ring of Fire”, an arc of volcanoes and fault lines in the Pacific Basin.

In December 2004, a massive magnitude 9.1 earthquake off Sumatra triggered a tsunami that killed 230,000 people in a dozen countries.