Lombok earthquake: Death toll rises to 259

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The death toll from a magnitude 6.9 Earthquake on the Indonesian island of Lombok on Sunday has risen to 259 and may go higher still, officials say.

The region has been hit by more than 350 aftershocks, the worst of which struck on Thursday.

The latest tremor had a magnitude of 5.9 or 6.2, according to monitors. It brought down some buildings.

Survivors
Rescue workers are still digging through rubble and trying to get aid to survivors of the earlier, larger quake.

Officials said of the latest death toll: “This number will continue increasing as rescue teams continue to find victims under collapsed buildings.”

Indonesia’s chief security minister had earlier said 319 people had died, while local media have 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 says that Sunday’s incident was ‘exceptionally destructive’.

Some villages had ‘completely collapsed,’ said a Red Cross official in Lombok, Christopher Rassi.

The government says more than 1,400 people were injured and more than 270,000 displaced.

The new tremor on Thursday hit the north-west coast of Lombok, sending people running into the streets in panic. No tsunami warning was issued.

Effects of the quake
Sunday’s quake came only days after a slightly smaller one, which killed at least 16 people. There are growing concerns that the important tourism industry will be badly hit at what should be a busy time.

Thousands of tourists visiting Lombok – as well as the nearby Gili Islands and Bali – have been evacuated or have chosen to leave since the weekend.

“We’ve had light earthquakes in the past, but never anything like this,” hotel chain owner Marcel De Rijk told Reuters news agency.

“We’ve lost a lot of bookings and future guests are in wait-and-see mode. I don’t think people will choose Lombok anymore this summer.”

The quake struck at 19:46 local time (11:46 GMT) on Sunday at a fairly shallow depth of 31km (19 miles).

Indonesia is prone to earthquakes because it lies on the Ring of Fire -the line of frequent quakes and volcanic eruptions that circles virtually the entire Pacific rim.

More than half of the world’s active volcanoes above sea level are part of the ring.

BBC/Emmanuel Ukoh/Lateefah Ibrahim