Rescuers jump into action after midnight quake in Indonesia

Rescuers jump into action after midnight quake in Indonesia

Overnight, a magnitude 6.2 earthquake hit the province of West Sulawesi, Indonesia, injuring hundreds and killing dozens. Rescue teams are mobilizing all available resources to save victims. 

Daus Thobelulu/AP

Rescuers search for survivors in the rubble of a government building collapsed by an earthquake in Mamuju, Indonesia, Jan. 15, 2021. Additional help and supplies are being shipped and flown in to support the efforts.

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January 15, 2021

Mamuju, Indonesia

A strong, shallow earthquake shook Indonesia’s Sulawesi island just after midnight Friday, toppling homes and buildings, triggering landslides and killing at least 34 people.

More than 600 people were injured during the magnitude 6.2 quake, which sent people fleeing their homes in the darkness. Authorities were still collecting information about the full scale of casualties and damage in the affected areas.

There were reports of many people trapped in the rubble of collapsed homes and buildings. Images showed a severed bridge and damaged and flattened houses. TV stations reported the earthquake damaged part of a hospital and patients were moved to an emergency tent outside.

A video showed a father crying, asking for help to save his children buried under their toppled house. “They are trapped inside, please help,” he cried.

Thousands of displaced people were evacuated to temporary shelters.


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The quake was centered 22 miles south of West Sulawesi province’s Mamuju district, at a depth of 11 miles, the United States Geological Survey said.

The Indonesian disaster agency said the death toll climbed to 34 as rescuers in Mamuju retrieved 26 bodies trapped in the rubble of collapsed homes and buildings.

The agency said in a statement that eight people were killed and 637 others were injured in Mamuju’s neighboring district of Majene. It said at least 300 houses and a health clinic were damaged and about 15,000 people were being housed in temporary shelters in the district. Power and phones were down in many areas.

West Sulawesi Administration Secretary Muhammad Idris told TVOne that the governor’s office building was among those that collapsed in Mamuju, the provincial capital, and many people there remain trapped.

Rescuer Saidar Rahmanjaya said a lack of heavy equipment was hampering the operation to clear the rubble from collapsed houses and buildings. He said his team was working to save 20 people trapped in eight buildings, including in the governor’s office, a hospital, and hotels.

“We are racing against time to rescue them,” Mr. Rahmanjaya said.

President Joko Widodo said in a televised address that he had ordered his social minister and the chiefs of the military, police, and disaster agency to carry out emergency response measures and search and rescue operations as quickly as possible.

“I, on behalf of the government and all Indonesian people, would like to express my deep condolences to families of the victims,” Mr. Widodo said.

The National Search and Rescue Agency’s chief, Bagus Puruhito, said rescuers from the cities of Palu, Makassar, Balikpapan, and Jakarta were being deployed to help in Mamuju and Majene.

Two ships were heading to the affected areas from Makassar and Balikpapan carrying rescuers and search and rescue equipment, while a Hercules plane carrying supplies was on its way from Jakarta.

Mr. Puruhito is already leading more than 4,100 rescue personnel in a separate massive search operation for victims of the crash of a Sriwijaya Air jet into the Java Sea last Saturday.

The district’s disaster agency chief, Sirajuddin, who goes by one name, said although the inland earthquake did not have the potential to cause a tsunami, people along coastal areas ran to higher ground in fear one might occur.

Landslides were set off in three locations and blocked a main road connecting Mamuju to the Majene district, said Raditya Jati, the disaster agency’s spokesperson.

On Thursday, a magnitude 5.9 undersea quake hit the same region, damaging several homes but causing no apparent casualties.

Indonesia, a vast archipelago of 260 million people, is frequently struck by earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis because of its location on the “Ring of Fire,” an arc of volcanoes and fault lines in the Pacific Basin.

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In 2018, a 7.5 magnitude earthquake in Palu on Sulawesi island set off a tsunami and caused soil to collapse in a phenomenon called liquefaction. More than 4,000 people died. A powerful Indian Ocean quake and tsunami in 2004 killed 230,000 people in a dozen countries, most of them in Indonesia.

This story was reported by Associated Press. Karmini reported from Jakarta, Indonesia.

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