More than 500 hikers who were stranded on a mountain on the Indonesian island of Lombok after an earthquake have been safely evacuated. The 6.4 magnitude quake on Sunday triggered landslides around Mount Rinjani, cutting off escape routes. Most of the hikers and guides were able to walk down after a safe route was found for them but some were flown out by helicopter.
At least 16 people were killed in the quake and more than 330 were injured. Rescue workers are still waiting to bring down the body of an Indonesian hiker who was killed by falling rocks. A Malaysian tourist also died. The volcano, which rises 3,726m (12,224ft) above sea level and is the second-highest one in Indonesia, is a favourite among sightseers.
Indonesia is prone to earthquakes because it lies on the Ring of Fire – a horse-shoe-shaped string of volcanoes, earthquake sites and tectonic plates that circles virtually the entire Pacific rim. Disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho told AFP that 543 people had arrived back at the foot of the mountain by Monday night.
I Gusti Lanang Wiswananda, a spokesman for Mataram search and rescue agency, told AFP that they were all “tired but in good condition”. Hundreds of people in Lombok have been left homeless and are staying in temporary camps amid continuing aftershocks.
Living in the shadow of a volcano means people here are no strangers to natural disasters, but Sunday’s powerful quake and the hundreds of aftershocks have people on edge. The community is quickly pulling together, though, to repair damaged buildings, including the town’s only health clinic. Electricity and clean water are being restored to villages in Sambalia that were cut off.
Gita Dwipayasantri had arrived at a makeshift medical tent here in Sembalun to ask for doctors’ advice. Her four-year-old daughter clings to her. She is worried there is going to be another big earthquake and her mother tells me she’s traumatised. “I am frightened too, but I need to be strong for her,” she says.
This is an area that increasingly relies on tourism and now that the mountain is closed to hikers, businesses are worried. “I have had so many international cancellations,” says Hugeng, who runs a hotel at the base of Mount Rinjani. “I hope local people will still come and relax here.”