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Tourists flee earthquake island

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At magnitude 6.9, Sunday’s quake released more than five times the energy of the earlier one

People gather on the streets following an earthquake in Lombok. Picture: Lalu Onank/Social Media via Reuters

RESCUERS used diggers and heavy machinery to clear debris and search for survivors yesterday after a magnitude 6.9 earthquake killed at least 98 people on Indonesia’s resort island of Lombok, prompting an exodus of tourists.

The National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) said it expected the death toll to rise once the rubble of more than 13 000 flattened and damaged houses was cleared away after the second powerful quake in a week.

Power and communications were severed in some areas, with landslides and a collapsed bridge blocking access to areas around the quake epicentre in the north – forcing rescue teams to bring in the heavy machinery.

The military said it would send a ship with medical aid, supplies and logistics support.

Indonesia sits on the geologically active Pacific Ring of Fire and is regularly hit by earthquakes. In 2004, the Indian Ocean tsunami killed 226 000 people in 13 countries, including more than 120 000 in Indonesia.

Officials said more than 2 000 people had been evacuated from the three Gili islands off the northwest coast of Lombok, where fears of another tsunami spread among tourists.

Michelle Thompson, an American holidaying on one of the Gilis, described a “scramble” to get on boats leaving for the main island during which her husband was injured.

Lombok had already been hit on July 29 by a 6.4 magnitude quake that killed 17 people and briefly stranded several hundred trekkers on the slopes of a volcano.

At magnitude 6.9, Sunday’s quake released more than five times the energy of the earlier one.