Rescuers dig through quake rubble for aunt of Indonesian sprint star
KARANGPANGSOR, Indonesia (Reuters) – Rescuers on Indonesia’s quake-hit island of Lombok dug through the rubble of a mosque on Wednesday, hoping to reach the aunt of a sprinter who became a national hero last month at the under-20 world championships in Finland.
Salama, 52, was at a prayer class in the mosque of Karangpangsor village when the 6.9-magnitude quake struck the tropical holiday island on Sunday evening, killing more than 100 people and leaving thousands homeless as buildings collapsed.
She is an aunt by marriage of Lalu Muhammad Zohri, who just over a year ago could barely afford running shoes and was hardly known outside his family’s village.
The 18-year-old became a household name almost overnight in July, when he won the 100 meters gold at the World Junior Championships in Tampere, Finland. Now he carries the hopes of the Southeast Asian nation at the Asian Games it is preparing to host in the next few weeks.
He lives two doors away from his aunt, Salama.
Rescuers used a mechanical digger to clear a jumble of metal rods and concrete beside the still-intact green dome of the mosque, but there have been no signs the woman was alive and relatives appeared to have lost hope.
“I come here in the morning and go back to the relief camp at night,” said Husni, another family member, as he watched the rescue effort. “Hopefully, now, with the arrival of heavy equipment, we can get her remains back.”
A woman was pulled alive on Tuesday from under a collapsed grocery store in the rural north of Lombok, near the epicenter of Sunday’s 6.9 magnitude quake.
However, hopes of finding more survivors are fading and a humanitarian crisis is looming for thousands left homeless and in desperate need of clean water, food, medicine and shelter.
Indonesia’s disaster mitigation agency (BNPB) on Tuesday put the death toll at 105, including two on the western neighboring island of Bali, which also felt the quake, and said the figure was expected to rise.
Lombok had already been hit by a 6.4 magnitude earthquake on July 29 that killed 17 people and briefly stranded several hundred trekkers on the slopes of a volcano.
Indonesia sits on the Pacific Ring of Fire and is regularly hit by earthquakes. In 2004, the Indian Ocean tsunami killed 226,000 people in 13 countries, including more than 120,000 in Indonesia.
About three-quarters of Lombok’s north has been without electricity since Sunday, officials said, and aid workers are finding some hamlets hard to reach because bridges and roads were torn up by the tremor.
“Teams are speaking of coming across ghost towns, villages that have essentially been abandoned,” Matthew Cochrane of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said in Geneva on Tuesday.
He added that 80 percent of buildings had been damaged or destroyed, with thousands displaced.
Thousands of tourists have left Lombok since Sunday, fearing further earthquakes, some on extra flights added by airlines and others on ferries to Bali.
Officials said close to 5,000 foreign and domestic tourists had been evacuated from the three Gili islands off the northwest coast of Lombok, where two people died.