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Indonesia volcano: Hundreds of hikers trapped after earthquake

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Posted at 6:30 AM, Jul 30, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-30 06:30:04-04

Hundreds of people are trapped on a volcano on the popular Indonesian tourist island of Lombok after a devastating earthquake killed more than a dozen people.

A rescue operation is currently underway for the tourists trapped by landslides on Mount Rinjani, a Lombok volcano popular for hiking enthusiasts. According to National Disaster Management Agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, there were an estimated 820 people on the 3,726 meter (12,224 ft) mountain when the shallow 6.4-magnitude earthquake struck Sunday morning.

At least 260 people had already been evacuated by Sunday afternoon, Sutopo said on Twitter, while a spokesman for Rinjani National Park said another 109 had been rescued as of 2 p.m. local time (3 a.m. ET) Monday afternoon. It remains unclear how many others were left or their precise whereabouts.

Videos given to CNN by a Thai trekking group, Trekmania, who were on Rinjani when the earthquake struck show enormous clouds of dust covering the slopes of the mountain, triggered by the landslides.

According to a statement from Rinjani National Park, more than 300 foreign tourists were originally among the trapped hikers.

A rescue team of 184 people set off Monday morning to evacuate the hikers, including special military, police and medical teams.

So far 14 people across the island have been declared dead following the earthquake, while another 162 have been reported injured, according to Indonesia’s National Disaster Management Agency.

Pictures from the scene of the disaster showed locals picking through the rubble of their collapsed homes, and the injured hastily bundled into makeshift emergency shelters.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo flew to the island Monday to meet with the communities affected by the earthquake as emergency aid began to be dispersed to the island.

Among those killed in the quake was a 30-year-old Malaysian female tourist, Antara said. Malaysia’s Deputy Prime Minister Wan Azizah Wan Ismail mourned her loss in a statement Sunday.

More than 100 aftershocks

Indonesia is no stranger to destructive earthquakes, sitting on the area of intense seismic and volcanic activity known as the Pacific Ring of Fire.

The 40,000 kilometer (25,000 mile) area stretches from Japan and Indonesia on one side of the Pacific, all the way across to California on the other.

According to Antara, there had been more than 120 aftershocks recorded by the countries Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) as of Sunday afternoon.

Jean Paul Volchaert, who owns the Puncak Hotel on Lombok, told CNN that the area gets small earthquakes “every month or so” but Sunday’s tremor was the worst he’d felt.

“We were still sleeping when we felt the earthquake, so we rushed outside of our building. There was about 20 seconds of shaking, the water in the pool was making quite large waves,” he said.

Volchaert said while there had been little damage to his building or neighborhood, reports were coming in of severe damage on the north of the island.

“We felt aftershocks for two hours after the initial earthquake, so we’re worried that there could be more damage caused,” he said.

Aid distributed to Lombok

The Indonesian Red Crescent said it was dispatching hundreds of tarpaulins, blankets and hygiene kits to the affected areas as part of their initial response to the Lombok earthquake.

Meanwhile, the Indonesian government has been working to supply mineral water, tents and food supplies to the affected, according to Antara.

President Widodo flew into Lombok on Monday morning to inspect the damage and relief efforts in the aftermath of the disaster.

“The president will meet with the people affected by the disaster and also hand over the aid,” government official Bey Machmudin told Antara Monday morning.

Deputy Head of Mission Zamshari Sahaharan at the Malaysian embassy in Jakarta said they were encouraging all Malaysian who knew tourists in Lombok to contact consular officials.

He said the Malaysian government was ready to provide further aid to their Indonesian counterparts as necessary.