More than 500 tourists, including U.S. and EU citizens, are trapped on a volcano on the Indonesian island of Lombok, after a powerful earthquake caused landslides that blocked hiking trails.
Helicopters and search teams on foot have been deployed to scour the slopes of Mount Rinjani, which is crisscrossed with hiking routes popular with tourists, while rescuers have made airdrops of food supplies to those stranded.
Tonnes of rock and mud were dislodged on the mountain in the 6.4-magnitude quake, which struck early Sunday and was followed by scores of aftershocks, leaving hikers with no easy way down to safety.
The earthquake devastated large parts of the island, which is located next to Bali, killing at least 16 people and injuring more than 160. No hikers are among those dead or injured, officials said.
Today, the head of Rinjani national park said 560 people remain on the mountain, although some have started to descend.
However, they are unlikely to reach the base before nightfall, and the evacuation will most likely stretch into Tuesday.
Those believed to be stranded include citizens from the United States, France, The Netherlands, Thailand and Germany, as well as many other countries, search and rescue officials said.
The UK Foreign Office has confirmed that a number of British citizens have been reported safe on Lombok following the earthquake, but would not say whether these included anyone still remaining on the mountain.
A Foreign Office spokeswoman said: ‘Embassy officials are in close contact with Indonesian authorities about the search and rescue operation on Mount Rinjani.
‘A number of British nationals are confirmed safe; we are continuing to monitor the situation.’
The rescue operation on Mount Rinjani is likely to run until at least Tuesday and a military helicopter has dropped supplies at several spots on the mountain, according to search and rescue agency officials.
‘For supplies, they can still survive for another one to two days,’ Agus Hendra Sanjaya, spokesman for Mataram’s search and rescue agency, told AFP.
No hikers are injured, he added.
Rising some 3,726 metres (12,224 feet) above sea level, the peak is the second-tallest volcano in Indonesia and a favourite among sightseers keen to take in its expansive views.
Hiking trails on the mountain were closed following the quake due to fear of further landslides.
The epicentre of the earthquake was 50 km (30 miles) northeast of Lombok’s main city Mataram, the United States Geological Survey said, far from the main tourist spots on the south and west of the island.
The initial tremor was followed by two strong secondary quakes and more than 100 aftershocks.
At least 16 people were killed in the earthquake across affected areas of Lombok, while hundreds of buildings were destroyed.
Some 160 people were injured as a result, said Mohammad Rum, head of West Nusa Tenggara disaster agency.
Among the dead are one Malaysian, with six injured, the Malaysian foreign ministry said.
President Joko Widodo visited the affected site on Monday and promised financial support for people who had lost their homes.
‘We must be aware that our country is in the Ring of Fire, so people need to be prepared to face any disaster,’ Widodo said.
Indonesia, one of the most disaster-prone nations on earth, straddles the so-called Pacific ‘Ring of Fire’, where tectonic plates collide and a large portion of the world´s volcanic eruptions and earthquakes occur.
In 2004 a tsunami triggered by a magnitude 9.3 undersea earthquake off the coast of Sumatra in western Indonesia killed 220,000 people in countries around the Indian Ocean, including 168,000 in Indonesia.
Source : Dailymail