People burry an earthquake victim during a burial ceremony at Tanjung, in northern Lombok on West Nusa Tenggara province. Picture: AFP.
People burry an earthquake victim during a burial ceremony at Tanjung, in northern Lombok on West Nusa Tenggara province. Picture: AFP.

Lombok fears more deadly aftershocks

ON Indonesia's earthquake-devastated Lombok island, people are reeling as they mourn more than 300 dead and sleep in makeshift shelters.

And an incessant wave of aftershocks is fuelling a sense that the crisis is far from over - and that the worst may be yet to come.

According to disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, officials have recorded a staggering 450 aftershocks since Sunday.

A military paramedic tends to a boy who's head was injured from Sunday's earthquake at a makeshift hospital in Kayangan, Lombok Island, Indonesia. Picture: AP.
A military paramedic tends to a boy who's head was injured from Sunday's earthquake at a makeshift hospital in Kayangan, Lombok Island, Indonesia. Picture: AP.

A magnitude 5.9 aftershock on Thursday injured more than two dozen people, damaged buildings and caused a landslide that buried four people.

The midday quake was so strong it rocked a six-storey Indonesian naval ship that was treating wounded survivors offshore, causing civilians and crew to scurry off an adjacent concrete dock that had already cracked apart.

The quake split apart roads near the coast and sparked landslides that cut off routes used by emergency medical workers and rescue crews who are still trying to clear rubble and recover the dead.

At least one rescue team with excavators had to suspend its work after the quake.

In Mataram, several buildings collapsed in clouds of dust and some shops closed. Several hotels sent terrified staff home for the day.

The strong aftershock shook the walls of Handayani's kitchen, prompting the pregnant 27-year-old to run outside in a panic.

On a kerb outside, she tripped and fell, glimpsing blood on her clothes before blacking out. "When I woke up … I was in the hospital, and my (unborn) child was gone," Handayani said, weeping as she told her story on Friday in a green tent set up to house patients because it was considered unsafe to treat them inside.

Another patient at the hospital with one arm in a sling and an IV in the other, 70-year-old Jami-ah, said she had been sleeping in tents with her family in her backyard, fearing a new earthquake would cause their house to crumble.

But she had gone inside briefly to go the bathroom when the aftershock struck. She fell down, and fell again as she fled down a stairwell from her terrace, breaking bones in her arm. Doctors later discovered she was bleeding internally, somewhere around her stomach.

"Must I live in fear every day? … It never stops," said Jami-ah, who like many Indonesians uses only one name. "I'm afraid the next earthquake will kill me."

A field hospital in Tanjung, one of the hard-hit districts in north Lombok, was still treating patients on Friday because hospitals are damaged or overwhelmed.

Medic Ainun Kharima said head injuries caused by collapsing buildings were a big cause of deaths.

A man weeps as he prays during Muslim prayers in North Lombok. Picture: AP.
A man weeps as he prays during Muslim prayers in North Lombok. Picture: AP.

"Many patients here have broken bones and we handle it as much as possible because the hospital is damaged, impossible to do surgery and treat patients with severe injuries," she said.

Foremost in the minds of some is rebuilding the collapsed mosques that were the heart of their communities.

Dozens of villagers in Tanjung district prayed in a field on Friday in front of their former mosque and made plans for a replacement.

"We are very sad because our mosque we loved very much is now destroyed," said Sunarto, a worshipper, holding back tears.

"Our imam, who is our leader, also died in the mosque."

The magnitude 7.0 quake on Sunday killed at least 321 people and damaged or destroyed nearly 68,000 homes. Some 270,000 people are homeless or otherwise displaced.

It also up-ended daily religious life, with 15 mosques collapsing and 50 musholla or prayer rooms damaged.

Like most of Indonesia, Lombok is majority Muslim. A minority on the island practice Hinduism, a legacy of its historical domination by Hindu Balinese kingdoms.

Sunarto, who uses one name, said hearing the call to prayer and being observant will help villagers rebuild from the disaster.

"Our mission in our meeting with villagers is to talk about how we are going to build a temporary mosque so that the voice of Quranic verse will continue to reverberate in our village," he said.

Indonesia is prone to earthquakes because of its location on the "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 triggered a tsunami that killed 230,000 people in a dozen countries.

 

A boy cries while receiving treatment at an emergency hospital following Sunday's earthquake and a series of aftershocks in Tanjung. Picture: Getty.
A boy cries while receiving treatment at an emergency hospital following Sunday's earthquake and a series of aftershocks in Tanjung. Picture: Getty.
A two-day-old baby, Gempa Maulana (meaning 'Earthquake Guard Angel'), carried by his grandmother at an emergency hospital following Sunday's earthquake. Picture: Getty.
A two-day-old baby, Gempa Maulana (meaning 'Earthquake Guard Angel'), carried by his grandmother at an emergency hospital following Sunday's earthquake. Picture: Getty.

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