Earthquake sets off landslides, flattens homes in Indonesia

by Joseph K. Clark
A robust and shallow earthquake has shaken Indonesia’s Sulawesi island, causing landslides and sending people fleeing from their homes in the nighttime darkness

JAKARTA, Indonesia — A strong, shallow earthquake shook Indonesia’s Sulawesi island just after midnight, causing landslides and sending people fleeing from their homes in the nighttime darkness. At least 10 people were confirmed dead and more than 200 injured, but authorities were still collecting information from devastated areas.

In a video released by the National Disaster Mitigation Agency, a girl trapped in the wreckage of a house cried out for help and said she heard the sound of other family members in the rubble but unable to move out. “Please help me. It hurts,” the girl told rescuers, who replied that they desperately wanted to help her.

The rescuers said an excavator was needed to save the girl and others trapped in collapsed buildings in the video. Other images showed a severed bridge, damaged and even flattened houses. TV stations reported the earthquake damaged part of a hospital, and patients were moved to an emergency tent outside.

Another video showed a father crying, asking for help to save his children buried under tons of rubble after their house toppled. “My children there … they are trapped inside, please help,” he cried in panic.

Thousands of displaced people were evacuated to temporary shelters. The magnitude 6.2 quake early Friday was centered 36 kilometers (22 miles) south of West Sulawesi province’s Mamuju district, at a depth of 18 kilometers (11 miles), the U.S. Geological Survey said.

West Sulawesi Administration Secretary Muhammad Idris told TVOne that the governor’s office building collapsed in Mamuju, the provincial capital, and many people there remain trapped, including two security guards. Idris said seven people were confirmed dead so far in Mamuju.

Rescuer Saidar Rahmanjaya said a lack of heavy equipment was hampering the operation to clear the rubble from collapsed houses and buildings. He said his team was saving 20 people trapped in eight buildings, including a hospital and hotels in the governor’s offices.

“We are racing against time to rescue them,” Rahmanjaya said. Three other people died in the neighboring district of Majene when their homes were flattened by the quake while they were sleeping, said Sirajuddin, the district’s disaster agency chief.

Sirajuddin, who goes by one name, said at least 218 others have been injured so far, and more than 300 houses and buildings were damaged, including a hospital, health clinics, hotels, and offices.

He said although the inland earthquake did not have the potential to cause a tsunami, people along coastal areas ran to higher ground in fear one might occur. Some 10,000 people are now in shelters.

Landslides were set off in three locations and blocked the main road connecting Mamuju to the Majene district, said Raditya Jati, the disaster agency’s spokesperson. On Thursday, a magnitude 5.9 undersea quake hit the same region, damaging several homes but causing no apparent casualties.

Indonesia, a vast archipelago of 260 million people, is frequently struck 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 on Sulawesi island set off a tsunami and caused the soil to collapse in a phenomenon called liquefaction. More than 4,000 people died, many of the victims buried when whole neighborhoods were swallowed in the falling ground. A powerful Indian Ocean quake and tsunami in 2004 killed 230,000 people in a dozen countries, most of them in Indonesia.


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