Jakarta, Less than a week after a massive earthquake killed 259 people on the Indonesian island of Lombok, a 5.9 magnitude tremor hit the region on Thursday, sending frightened residents onto the streets.
The fresh seismic event followed the 6.9 magnitude quake on Sunday that flattened homes and stranded thousands of people on Lombok’s northern coast and the nearby Gili Islands. The region has been hit by more than 350 aftershocks, the BBC reported.
Officials said that the toll in the earlier tremor was expected to go higher as rescue workers were still digging through rubble and trying to get aid to survivors.
Indonesia’s Chief Security Minister had earlier said 319 people had died, while local media reported figures as high as 347.
But National Disaster Agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho told the BBC that only 259 deaths had been verified. The Red Cross called the Sunday incident “exceptionally destructive”.
Some villages were “completely collapsed”, said a Red Cross official in Lombok, Christopher Rassi.
The disaster agency spokesperson said over 1,400 people were hospitalized, while 270,168 were displaced.
Aid has been slow to trickle in, due to damage to roads leading to the affected areas and the relatively remote location of the island.
Hundreds who survived Sunday’s quake were huddled in evacuation centres. There was a shortage of food and many survivors were still traumatized, aid workers told CNN, afraid to return indoors.
Endri Susanto, who runs a non-governmental organization assisting with relief efforts in Lombok, told CNN that people started screaming when Thursday’s quake hit. People abandoned their vehicles and rushed out of their homes. Soon after, ambulances started whizzing by, sounding their sirens.
He said that his friends in central Lombok told him that houses there had started to crack. The earthquake felt very strong in Mataram, a city on Lombok’s west coast, Susanto said.
It could also be felt on Bali, another popular resort island in Indonesia to Lombok’s west.
The Sunday quake occurred a week after another 6.4-magnitude tremor struck Lombok and left 16 people dead, 355 injured and 1,500 buildings destroyed.
The Indonesian archipelago is situated along the so-called “Pacific Ring of Fire”, an area known for its intense seismic and volcanic activity, which produce about 7,000 earthquakes each year, most of which are of moderate magnitude.