Indonesia earthquake leaves at least 91 dead in Lombok, Bali as residents flee

Indonesia earthquake leaves dozens dead. Courtesy: ABC News

A strong earthquake has struck the Indonesian tourist island of Lombok, killing at least 91 people and shaking neighbouring Bali, one week after another quake on Lombok killed more than a dozen.

The magnitude-7 quake struck at a depth of 15 kilometres early on Sunday evening in the northern part of Lombok, triggering a brief tsunami warning and damaging buildings as far away as Denpasar in Bali. It was followed by aftershocks as strong as magnitude-5.4.

On Lombok, thousands fled from their homes to gather for safety in open spaces, but a tsunami warning was lifted after waves just 15 centimetres high were recorded in three villages.

The ABC’s Indonesia correspondent David Lipson said a witness on the nearby Gili Islands reported thousands of people fleeing to higher ground.

There are also reports of fatalities on the Gili Islands, situated off Lombok’s north-west coast.

National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said most of the deaths were in North Lombok district.

Thousands of houses were damaged, and most of those killed were hit by collapsed houses, he said.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is contacting the Indonesian President today to offer Australia’s help to cope with the earthquake.

“We always reach out to our neighbours when natural disasters strike,” he said.

Mr Turnbull said there were no reports at this stage of Australians being injured by the quake.

“Obviously Australians have been affected, they felt the shock, including Minister Peter Dutton who was at a counter-terrorism conference in Lombok,” he said.

“There are a lot of Australians in Indonesia at any time, so our consular services will be doing everything they can to ascertain the safety of Australians.”

Mr Dutton said his delegation was safe but had to be evacuated from its hotel.

“Very grateful to Indonesian police and authorities and the AFP,” he tweeted.

Australia’s consul-general to Bali Helena Studdert said Australians should follow the instructions of local authorities during the emergency.

‘We need to get out of here’

Australian Don Finlayson from Bathurst, NSW was in Sanur on the south-east coast of Bali at the time of the earthquake.

“As the quake happened, we were sitting in the Trattoria Restaurant when the table began to sway,” Mr Finlayson said.

“A few muted screams came from around us and we said, ‘It’s an earthquake — we need to get out of here’.

“We were the first out and the rest of the diners spilled out onto the street … It only lasted a few seconds but it shook us all up in every way with a young woman sobbing [nearby] and [being] supported by her family.

“The locals also seemed a bit disturbed although it was business as usual. Cars and scooters continued on the street outside seemingly oblivious to the interruption to the ground and life on top of it.”

Singapore Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam, who was in the Lombok town of Mataram at the time of the quake, wrote on Facebook that his 10th-floor hotel room shook violently and walls cracked.

“It was quite impossible to stand up. Heard screams,” he wrote.

“Came out, and made my way down a staircase, while building was still shaking. Power went out for a while. Lots of cracks, fallen doors.”

Video showed screaming people running in panic from houses in a Bali neighbourhood, and vehicles rocking.

On Lombok, soldiers and other rescuers carried injured people on stretchers and carpets to an evacuation centre.

Authorities shared footage of locals being evacuated from the Gili Islands by boat.

“I was watching TV when I felt a big shake,” said Harian, a Lombok woman who uses one name.

“The lamp was shaking and people were shouting, ‘Get out’. I ran out into the dark because the power cut off.”

The quake was felt for several seconds in Bali, where people ran out of houses, hotels and restaurants.

“All the hotel guests were running so I did too. People filled the streets,” said Michelle Lindsay, an Australian tourist.

“A lot of officials were urging people not to panic.”

Najmul Akhyar, district chief of North Lombok, told MetroTV there was an electrical blackout so he was unable to assess the entire situation, but that at least three people had been killed.

Iwan Asmara, a Lombok disaster official, said people poured out of their homes in panic to move to higher ground, particularly in North Lombok and Mataram, the capital of West Nusa Tenggara province, which includes Lombok.

Lombok and Bali airports affected

The Bali and Lombok airports continued operating on Sunday night, according to the director general of civil aviation.

There had been a half-hour evacuation at the Lombok airport following the quake because the electricity went off. TV showed crying women consoling each other outside the airport.

There was also minor damage at Bali airport, with roof tiles dislodged, according to the Jakarta Post.

Flights to and from Bali and Lombok airports were running to schedule this morning.

Two quakes in a week

A magnitude 6.4 quake hit Lombok on July 29, killing 17 people.

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 palms.

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 island triggered a tsunami that killed 230,000 people in a dozen countries.