A strong, shallow earthquake rocked Indonesia’s Sulawesi island just after midnight on Friday, breaking homes and buildings, triggering landslides and killing at least 34 people.
More than 600 people were injured during an intensity of 6.2, sending people fleeing their homes in the dark. Authorities were still collecting information about the full scale of casualties and losses in the affected areas.
Several people were reported to be trapped in the debris of collapsed houses and buildings.
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In a video released by the National Disaster Mitigation Agency, a girl trapped in the rubble of a house shouted for help and said she also heard the voices of other family members who were trapped. “Please help me, it hurts,” the girl told the rescue team, who replied that they wanted to help her.
Rescuers said an excavation was needed to rescue the girl and others trapped in the collapsed buildings. Other images showed a broken bridge and damaged and flattened houses. TV stations reported the earthquake-damaged portion of a hospital and patients were taken outside to emergency tents.
Another video showed a father crying, seeking help to save his children buried under his house. “They are trapped inside, please help,” he cried.
Thousands of displaced people were evacuated to temporary shelters.
The US Geological Survey said the earthquake was centered 36 kilometers (22 mi) south of Mamuzu district in West Sulawesi province, the US Geological Survey said.
The Indonesian Disaster Agency said the death toll near rescue teams in Mamuzu rose to 34 and 26 bodies trapped in the rubble of collapsed houses and buildings were recaptured.
The agency said in a statement that eight people were killed and 637 others were injured in Majuwe’s neighboring district of Maju.
It said at least 300 homes and a health clinic were damaged and around 15,000 people were placed in temporary shelters. Electricity and phones were shut down in many areas.
Muhammad Idris, secretary of the West Sulawesi administration, told TVOn that the governor’s office building was among those that collapsed in the provincial capital Mamuzu and many people are stranded there.
Rescuer Saeed Rahmanzaya said the operation was hampered by the lack of heavy equipment to remove debris from the collapsed houses and buildings. He said his team is working to rescue 20 people trapped in eight buildings, including the governor’s office, a hospital and a hotel.
“We are running against time to save them,” Rahmanzaya said.
Relatives noticed that when they were watching the rescue team, the body of a loved one was pulled from the damaged house in the devastated Mamaju. It was placed in an orange body bag and taken for burial.
“Oh God, why did we have to go through this?” Cried Rona, who uses a name. “I can’t save my dear sister … Forgive me, sister, forgive us, God!”
President Joko Widodo said in a television address that he had ordered his social minister and the heads of the army, police and disaster agency to carry out emergency response measures and search and rescue operations at the earliest.
“On behalf of the government and all Indonesians, I would like to express my deepest condolences to the families of the victims,” said Vidhud.
The head of the National Search and Rescue Agency, Bages Puruhito, said that rescue teams from the cities of Palamu, Makasar, Balikpapan and Jakarta were deployed to help in Mamju and Majin.
Two ships were carrying rescue teams and search and rescue equipment to areas affected by Makasar and Balikpapan, while a Hercules aircraft was carrying supplies on its way from Jakarta.
Purohito is already leading more than 4,100 rescue personnel in a massive search operation for the victims of the Srivijay air jet crash in the Java Sea last Saturday.
The head of the district’s disaster agency, Siraj-ud-din, said three people died in Majin when their houses fell due to an earthquake while sleeping.
Siraj-ud-din, as one is known, said that although the inland earthquake did not have the potential to cause tsunamis, people in coastal areas could flee to the higher ground due to fear.
Disaster agency spokesperson Raditya Caste said landslides occurred at three places and blocked the main road connecting Maju district.
On Thursday, a 5.9 magnitude earthquake struck the same area, causing damage to several homes but causing no apparent casualties.
Indonesia’s Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysical Agency, known by the Indonesian BMKG, exposed the dangers of aftershocks and the possibility of a tsunami. Its president urged the people of the coastal areas to move to higher ground as a precaution.
Indonesia, a large archipelago of 260 million people, is often hit by an arc of volcanoes and fault lines in the Pacific Basin, being located on the “Ring of Fire” due to earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis.
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In 2018, a 7.5 magnitude earthquake in Palu on Sulawesi Island set up a tsunami and caused soil collapse in an event called liquefaction. More than 4,000 people died, with many victims buried when the entire neighborhood was swallowed up in the plunging ground.
A powerful Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami in 2004 killed 230,000 people in a dozen countries, most of them in Indonesia.