Disasters & Accidents

Sulawesi earthquake casualties rise as aftershocks rattle rescue efforts

(Update 1: Refreshes figures in pars 1, 2 ,8, minor edits, new headline, lede)

Bangkok Desk, Jan 16 (efe-epa).- The death toll from a shallow magnitude-6.2 earthquake on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi has risen to 46, with over 800 people injured, the country’s disaster management agency said Saturday, as aftershocks continued amid rescue efforts.

Thirty-seven deaths were registered in Mamuju regency and another nine in Majene regency, both in West Sulawesi province where the earthquake struck early Friday, according to the latest report by the National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB). Another 826 people have been injured.

Patients, including those in a damaged hospital, were moved to a field hospital for treatment, and 15,000 displaced people remained at 10 evacuation points.

The earthquake struck West Sulawesi at a depth of 10 kilometers at 2.28 am Friday while residents were sleeping.

On Saturday morning, a magnitude-5 shake occurred 20 km northeast of Majene at a 10 km depth as aftershocks continued. Residents were warned to beware of landslides and to stay away from beaches, however no tsunami alert was issued.

Power and mobile services were severely disrupted by Friday’s earthquake, and while electricity has been restored to some areas of Mamuju, Majene is “still in a state of blackout,” the BNPB said Saturday.

Several helicopters were deployed to support the response, as well as equipment such as tents, lighting, food, generators and masks.

To prevent transmission of Covid-19, which the country is severely affected by with more than 896,000 cases and 25,700 deaths, the health ministry has provided 70,000 masks, as well as 25 ambulances, tents, medical equipment and medicines.

Friday’s earthquake also resulted in at least three landslides that blocked several roads and damaged a bridge, complicating rescue and relief efforts.

Lacking enough heavy machinery, search teams have been facing a difficult task rescuing those who may have been trapped under the rubble of the damaged and destroyed buildings, including 300 houses, the hospital, a hotel and the regional governor’s office.

Friday’s tremor was the second to hit the same area in less than 24 hours after a 5.9-magnitude earthquake struck Thursday afternoon.

In September 2018, a magnitude-7.5 earthquake struck Sulawesi, triggering a tsunami that claimed over 2,000 lives and displaced 200,000 people in the cities of Palu and Donggala.

Indonesia sits on the Pacific Ring of Fire, an area of great seismic and volcanic activities with 127 active volcanoes. It experiences about 7,000, mostly-moderate, quakes a year. EFE-EPA

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