Powerful quake rocks Indonesian tourist island, 91 dead

(COLOMBO, LANKAPUVATH) – Rescuers still haven’t reached some devastated parts of the Indonesian tourist island of Lombok after a powerful earthquake flattened houses and toppled bridges, killing at least 91 people and shaking neighboring Bali, authorities said Monday. The death toll is expected to rise.

It was the second deadly quake in a week to hit Lombok. A July 29 quake killed 16 people and damaged hundreds of houses, some of which collapsed in Sunday evening’s magnitude 7.0 temblor, killing those inside.

National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho told a news conference that damage was “massive” in northern Lombok. In several districts, more than half the homes were destroyed or severely damaged.

Some areas still hadn’t been reached, with rescuers battling against collapsed bridges, electricity blackouts and damaged roads blocked with debris. Lack of heavy equipment was hampering attempts to find victims beneath the rubble of a mosque that collapsed in northern Lombok while villagers prayed inside, Nugroho said.

The death toll had risen to 91 and will “definitely increase,” he said, adding that two of the deaths were in Bali and the rest in Lombok. More than 200 people were seriously injured. Thousands of homes and buildings were damaged and 20,000 people are in temporary shelters.

The quake, measured at magnitude 7.0 by Indonesian authorities and a still-powerful 6.9 by the U.S. Geological Survey, struck early Sunday evening at a fairly shallow depth of 10.5 kilometers (6 miles) in the northern part of Lombok. Shallow quakes tend to cause more damage than deeper ones.

“We were sitting there having dinner at about 7 o’clock last night, we just felt really big sort of shaking and the lights went off and everyone just ran,” said Australian tourist Kim Liebelt as he waited with other travelers for a flight out at Lombok’s international airport.

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