MAMUJU, Indonesia: Rescuers scrambled to find buried survivors Saturday after a powerful earthquake on Indonesia’s Sulawesi island killed dozens, injured hundreds and left more feared trapped in the rubble of collapsed buildings..
At least 45 people died after the 6.2-magnitude quake struck in the early hours of Friday, triggering panic among residents of the island, which was hit by a 2018 quake-tsunami disaster that killed thousands.
Dozens of bodies have been hauled from beneath crumpled buildings in Mamuju, a city of about 110,000 in West Sulawesi province, while others were killed south of the area after the quake struck.
“The latest data we have is 45” dead, said Arianto from the rescue agency in Mamuju, who like many Indonesians goes by one name.
The toll was up from 42 on Friday evening.
Authorities have not given a figure for the number of residents who could be trapped under levelled buildings, including a hospital that collapsed with more than a dozen patients and staff inside.
At least one hotel had partially collapsed, while the regional governor’s office also suffered extensive damage.
About 15,000 residents have fled to temporary shelters and nearly 190 people were being treated for serious injuries, local authorities said.
Images from the scene Friday showed residents trying to flee Mamuju in cars and motorbikes as they drove past corrugated metal roofs and other building debris scattered on the roadside.
However, landslides caused by heavy rains and earthquakes blocked the main access roads outside the coastal cities.
Meteorological agencies warned residents that the area may be hit by strong aftershocks and avoid avoiding the beach in the event of a tsunami.
Authorities said the city’s airport was also damaged.
The Indonesian Red Cross said it is rushing to the scene to provide medical and disaster relief supplies, and its team is working hard to help find the trapped residents.
Save the Children warned that young people are most at risk.
“While the extent of the earthquake damage is still unclear, we know children are often the most vulnerable following disaster,” it said.
“It will be essential that children are prioritised in any response, as they may have witnessed the death of loved ones or become separated from their parents.”
The quake’s epicentre was 36 kilometres (22 miles) south of Mamuju and it had a relatively shallow depth of 18 kilometres.
Indonesia has frequent earthquakes and volcanic activity due to its position on the Pacific “ring of fire” where tectonic plates collide.
In 2018, a 7.5 magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami occurred in Palu, Sulawesi, causing more than 4,300 deaths or missing.
On December 26, 2004, a magnitude 9.1 earthquake occurred along the coast of Sumatra, which triggered a tsunami, killing 220,000 people in the area, including about 170,000 people in Indonesia.