Posted at 8:00 AM ET Jan 15, 2021 |
A magnitude 6.2 earthquake jolted Indonesia on January 15, killing at least 34 people. Thousands of residents fled their homes to higher ground.
Mamuju, Indonesia – A powerful, shallow earthquake jolted the Indonesian island of Sulawesi shortly after midnight Friday, collapsing homes and buildings, causing landslides and killing at least 34 people.
More than 600 people were injured during the 6.2-magnitude earthquake, and people were driven from their homes in the dark. Authorities are still gathering information on the full scale of casualties and damage in the affected areas.
There were reports of many people falling under the rubble of collapsed homes and buildings.
In a video clip released by the National Disaster Mitigation Agency, a girl stuck in the rubble of a house screamed for help and said she heard the voices of other family members trapped as well. “Please help me, it’s painful,” the girl told rescuers, who responded that they desperately wanted to help her.
Rescuers said an excavator was needed to rescue the girl and others trapped in collapsed buildings. Other photos showed a severed bridge and destroyed and destroyed homes. TV stations reported that the earthquake destroyed part of the hospital and patients were taken to an emergency tent outside.
Another video showed a father crying and calling for help to rescue his children, buried under their collapsed home. He shouted, “They are trapped inside, please help.”
Thousands of displaced people have been evacuated to makeshift shelters.
The US Geological Survey said the quake was centered 22 miles south of Mamuju, West Sulawesi Province, at a depth of 11 miles.
The Indonesian disaster agency said that the death toll rose to 34, while rescuers in Mamuju recovered 26 bodies trapped under the rubble of collapsed homes and buildings.
In a statement, the agency said that eight were killed and 637 others were injured in the Mageni area, adjacent to Mamuju.
It added that at least 300 homes and health clinics had been damaged and about 15,000 people were staying in temporary shelters in the area. Electricity and phones were cut off in many areas.
Muhammad Idris, West Sulawesi Administration Secretary, told TVOne that the governor’s office building was among the buildings that collapsed in Mamuju, the provincial capital, and many people are still trapped.
Rescuer Cedar Rahmanjaya said the lack of heavy equipment is hampering the removal of rubble from collapsed homes and buildings. He said his team was working to rescue 20 people trapped in eight buildings, including the governor’s office, a hospital and hotels.
“We are racing against time to save them,” said Rahmanjaya.
Relatives sobbed as they watched rescuers pull the body of a loved one out of a damaged house in the stricken Mamuju. And she was placed in an orange bag and taken for burial.
“Oh my God, why do we have to go through this?” Rina, who used one name, cried. “I cannot save my dear sister … Forgive me, sister, forgive us, O God!”
President Joko Widodo said in a televised address that he had ordered his social minister and the leaders of the army, police and disaster agency to implement emergency response measures and search and rescue operations as quickly as possible.
“On behalf of the Indonesian government and people, I would like to express my heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims,” said Widodo.
National Search and Rescue Agency chief Pagus Puruhito said rescuers from Palu, Makassar, Balikpapan and Jakarta are being deployed to help Mamuju and Majin.
Two ships heading to the affected areas of Makassar and Balikpapan were carrying rescue personnel and search and rescue equipment, while a Hercules plane carrying supplies was en route from Jakarta.
Puruhito is already leading more than 4,100 rescuers in a separate massive search for the victims of the Sriwijaya Air plane crash in the Java Sea last Saturday.
Serageldin, head of the region’s disaster agency, said that among the dead in Mageni, three people were killed when the earthquake ripped through their homes as they slept.
Serageldin, who uses one name, said that although the inland earthquake did not have the potential to cause a tsunami, people along the coastal areas ran to higher ground in fear of it.
The landslides occurred in three locations, and blocked a main road linking Mamuju with Majin, said Raditya Jati, a spokesman for the disaster agency.
On Thursday, a 5.9 magnitude earthquake struck the same area, and caused damage to many homes, but it did not seem to cause any casualties.
Indonesia’s Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency, known by its Indonesian acronym BMKG, has warned of the dangers of aftershocks and the possibility of a tsunami. Its president urged people in coastal areas to move to higher ground as a precaution.
Indonesia, a vast archipelago of 260 million people, is frequently hit 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.
In 2018, a 7.5 magnitude earthquake in Palu, Sulawesi Island, triggered a tsunami and caused the soil to collapse in a phenomenon called liquefaction. More than 4,000 people died, and many of the victims were buried when whole lives were swallowed up in the fallen ground.
A powerful earthquake in the Indian Ocean and a tsunami in 2004 killed 230,000 people in more than ten countries, most of them in Indonesia.
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