BALI, Indonesia - A pall of gloom descended on Indonesia on Thursday, after the country’s National Disaster Mitigation Agency announced that the death toll from Sunday’s devastating 6.9 magnitude earthquake had risen to 347.
However, despair turned to dread after midday on Thursday, when the region was struck by another powerful earthquake - the third massive temblor to strike Indonesia in less than two weeks.
Thursday’s temblor struck the once bustling Lombok island, which witnessed scenes of death and devastation after the massive 7.0 quake three days back.
The U.S. Geological Survey measured the strong aftershock at magnitude 5.9 and said it was centered in the northwest of the island.
It added that the tremor struck at a depth of 10 kms at midday, around 14 miles from the city of Mataram.
However, Indonesia’s Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency said that Thursday’s quake was measured at magnitude 6.2.
It added that the aftershock was centered in the northwest of the island and added that there was no potential threat of a tsunami being triggered.
According to the U.S.G.S., the temblor on Thursday was the biggest of the 355 aftershocks that have jolted the Island Nation following Sunday’s massive 6.9 earthquake.
On July 29, a 6.4 magnitude earthquake struck the Lombok island, which is about 50 miles east of Bali, killing 17 people and leaving over 150 others injured.
Indonesia’s Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency said that it had recorded several aftershocks in the hours after the 6.4 quake, and issued a warning that another major quake could be imminent.
Famous for its beaches, surfing, diving, snorkeling and hiking trails, the Lombok island suffered a lot of damage from the quake, as several buildings reportedly collapsing due to the impact of the tremor.
Officials said that collapsing structures sent debris flying in all direction, that injured many residents, who rushed out onto the streets in panic.
Thousands of homes were destroyed, and power was cut off in several parts of the quake-prone region.
Authorities also stated that the quake triggered landslides that briefly trapped trekkers on the popular mountain hiking route on the slopes of the Mount Rinjani volcano.
Then, less than a week after the destruction, Lombok island was struck by another massive earthquake, that was initially measured at magnitude 7.0 by the U.S. Geological Survey (U.S.G.S.), but was later revised to 6.9.
Sunday’s quake rocked the popular tourist island in central Indonesia at a depth of 10.5 kilometres and the country’s Meteorology Agency said that the earthquake centered on Lombok, but had also rocked the other tourist destination nearby, the Bali island.
Authorities dropped a tsunami warning an hour after announcing it, following the quake.
On Sunday, the U.S.G.S. stated on its website that Sunday’s quake had released more than five times the energy of the July 29 quake.
Meanwhile, even hours after the quake earlier this week, the resort island was gripped with death and destruction.
Local authorities said that efforts to rescue those trapped under the piles of rubble were hampered by the lack of heavy machinery.
Sunday’s temblor flattened large swathes of the picturesque tourist island, collapsed several buildings, razed entire localities and even triggered a mass tourist exodus the following day.
Officials said that thousands of tourists were evacuated from Lombok and the Gili Islands.
Further, Bali’s Ngurah Rai International Airport was crowded with hundreds of tourists who cut short their vacations and headed to safety and out of the disaster-gripped nation.
The Indonesian government estimated that 80 percent of the buildings in northern Lombok have been destroyed.
On Thursday morning, Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, a spokesman for the country's National Disaster Mitigation Agency said in a statement issued to the state-run Antara news agency that the death toll in Sunday's devastating earthquake had risen to 347.
The state news agency also noted that a total of 1,447 people suffered injuries and more than 165,000 had been displaced post the quake.
It said that a majority of the casualties took place in Kayangan, on the north side of the island.
Meanwhile, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies issued a statement saying it was appealing for $9 million to provide emergency aid to some 80,000 survivors of two devastating earthquakes
With entire villages being razed in Sunday’s quake, evacuees living in some encampments said that they are running out of food.
According to government officials in the world's largest archipelagic state, there is a dire need for medical staff and "long-term aid,” especially food and medicine in the worst-hit areas.
Further, Agung Pramuja, a spokesman for Mataram mitigation disaster agency said that about 200 cars packed with food, medicine and basic supplies were sent to heavily impacted regions in the north and west Thursday morning.
Fragile fault lines
Indonesia falls in the geological disaster zone in the Pacific called the Ring of Fire, which has seismically active tectonic plates.
The series of fragile fault lines that form the Ring of Fire stretch 25,000 miles from New Zealand, across the east coast of Asia through Indonesia, the Philippines and Japan, over to Alaska, Canada and the U.S. West Coast then down to the southern tip of South America.
Overall, the Ring of Fire contains 452 volcanoes and several tectonic plates in the earth’s crust and more than half of the world’s active volcanoes above sea level are part of the ring.
Indonesia sits atop this arc of volcanoes and fault lines in the Pacific Basin, which makes the country more prone to frequent seismic and volcanic activity.
The last massive quake to strike Indonesia, was a powerful 6.5 magnitude temblor which jolted the western Aceh province, off the north east coast of Sumatra island in December 2016.
The massive quake killed over 100 people dead, left scores injured and displaced more than 40,000 people.
Before that, in December 2004, a massive magnitude 9.1 earthquake struck off Sumatra triggered a tsunami that killed 230,000 people in over a dozen countries.