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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 18 November 2018

Death toll rises from powerful earthquake on Indonesia's Lombok as tourists flee

Tourists fleeing island hit by second quake in a week

Daybreak revealed chaos and destruction across the Indonesian resort island of Lombok on Monday after a magnitude 6.9 earthquake killed at least 98 people and prompted an exodus of tourists rattled by the second powerful quake in a week.

The National Disaster Mitigation Agency said the toll was expected to rise with initial reports of hundreds injured and thousands of buildings collapsed or badly damaged.

Power and communications were cut in some areas of Lombok, and the military said it was sending in a vessel with medical aid and supplies for the island.

Lombok was hit a week earlier, on July 29, by a 6.4 magnitude quake that killed 17 people, injured hundreds and briefly stranded several trekkers on the slopes of a volcano.

The Indonesian Agency for Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics said that more than 120 aftershocks were recorded after Sunday evening's quake, whose magnitude the US Geological Survey revised down to 6.9 from 7.0.

The tremor was so powerful it was felt on the neighbouring island of Bali where, according to BNPB, two people died.

Efforts to rescue victims trapped in the rubble of a mosque collapsed by Sunday's earthquake have been hampered by the lack of heavy lifting equipment, an Indonesian disaster agency official said.

National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said at a news conference Monday afternoon that death toll will "definitely increase," citing the mosque as an example of the devastation still being accounted for.

Footage has emerged of an imam continuing to pray as the earthquake struck his mosque in Bali.

In a video broadcast on Facebook, Musholla As-Syuhada Blk can be seen holding himself steady against the wall as he leads prayers.

Thousands of tourists were caught off guard as the ground of their luxury hotels were shaken by the tremors.

"I was at the rooftop of my hotel and the building started swaying very hard. It felt like two metres to the left, then two metres to the right, I could not stand up," said Gino Poggiali, a 43-year-old Frenchman, who was with his wife and two children.

His wife Maude, 44, said the family were on Bali for the first quake and Lombok for the second.

"This is it for me in Indonesia," she said. "Next time we will stay in France or somewhere close."

Long queues formed at the airport near Lombok's main town Mataram, as foreign visitors cut short holidays.

The Garuda Indonesia airline said it was adding extra flights from Lombok to help tourists leave, and AirAsia Group chief executive Tony Fernandes tweeted that the budget airline would try to put on extra flights.

The UAE Embassy in Jakarta tweeted a message to Emiratis in the country telling them to stay safe and follow instructions from local authorities.

"The Embassy of the State of Indonesia calls upon the fellow citizens of the islands of Lompoc and Pale to take precautions and stay away from dangerous areas," it wrote.

Screams, shaking buildings

Carlos Romartinez, a 24-year-old Spaniard who was also waiting for a flight out of Lombok, said he had decided to head instead to the island of Flores to the east.

"All the activities are shut down. We can't dive, we can't do anything so we will go to another island," he said.

Dutch tourist Marc Ganbuwalba injured his knee as a stampede of diners rushed from a restaurant after the quake.

"We are cutting short our holiday because I can't walk and we're just not in the mood anymore, more in the mood to see our loved ones," said the 26-year-old, sitting on a trolley with his leg bandaged.

"We are just thankful to God and also to the hotel staff who really helped us. Some of them said their own houses had been destroyed but they were still helping us."

Officials said more than 2,000 people had been evacuated from the three Gili islands a few kilometres off the north-west coast of Lombok, where fears of a tsunami spread among tourists.

Footage posted online by Mr Nugroho showed hundreds crowded on to the powder-white beaches of the three tiny, coral-fringed tropical islands, desperately awaiting transport.

Authorities initially said 1,200 people were stuck on the islands but scaled up the figure early in the evening. Some tourists chose to stay behind.

Seven Indonesian holidaymakers died on the largest of the three islands, Gili Trawangan, while another local woman died on nearby Bali.

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Singapore Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam, who was on the 10th floor of a hotel in Mataram when the earthquake struck, said that his room shook violently and walls cracked.

"It was quite impossible to stand up. Heard screams. Came out, and made my way down a staircase, while the building was still shaking. Power went out for a while. Lots of cracks, fallen doors," he wrote on Facebook.

His government issued a travel notice on Monday, advising citizens to defer travel to Lombok and urging those currently there to leave.

"We were knocked certainly to the floor. We were pretty lucky to get out. Everyone’s a bit shaken but all well," Australia's Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton, who was on the 12th floor of a Lombok hotel, told Australian radio.