Death toll rises following Indonesia earthquake

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A powerful earthquake flattened houses and toppled bridges on the Indonesian tourist island of Lombok, killing at least 98 people and shaking neighboring Bali, as authorities said Monday that rescuers still hadn’t reached some devastated areas and the death toll would climb.

It was the second deadly quake in a week to hit Lombok. A July 29 quake killed 16 people and damaged hundreds of houses, some of which collapsed in Sunday evening’s magnitude 7.0 temblor, killing those inside.

National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho told a news conference that damage was “massive” in northern Lombok. In several districts, more than half the homes were destroyed or severely damaged.

The ruins of a mosque that collapsed in Lading-Lading village while people prayed inside was being pulled apart by a backhoe in search of victims.

Some areas still hadn’t been reached as of midafternoon, with rescuers battling collapsed bridges, electricity and communication blackouts and damaged roads blocked with debris.

Nugroho said the death toll had risen to 98, after warning earlier that it would “definitely increase.” More than 230 people were seriously injured. Thousands of homes and buildings were damaged and 20,000 people were in temporary shelters.

The quake triggered a tsunami warning, and frightened people poured out of their homes to move to higher ground, particularly in North Lombok and Mataram, the capital of West Nusa Tenggara province. The warning was lifted later Sunday after only small waves were recorded.

“When it happened, we stood with residents in the middle of the street and watched houses collapse around us,” said Yustrianda Sirio, supervisor of a group of university students from Java doing a community service program in East Lombok. “Many of us screamed hysterically.”

He said the group had already been staying in tents after the July 29 quake but now officials had told them to return to Java.

“We really want to stay here to help the villagers,” he said.

On Gili Trawangan, one of three popular vacation islands near Lombok, thousands of tourists and local residents spent the night on a hill fearing a tsunami, said British visitor Saffron Amis.

“There was a lot of screaming and crying, particularly from the locals,” said Amis, from Brighton. “We spoke to a lot of them and they were panicking about their family in Lombok. It was just a lot of panic because no one knew what was happening.”

Thousands of people are now trying to get off the island, she said, describing the mood as both somber and panicked.

Hundreds of people packed a sliver of brilliant white beach on the 16-square kilometer (6-square mile) island, shouting at rescue personnel trying to ensure an orderly evacuation, video and photos supplied by the local water police showed.

Story by The Associated Press