JAKARTA, Indonesia — Shellshocked Indonesians on the resort island of Lombok began returning to their destroyed homes on Monday after a powerful earthquake killed at least 98 people and seriously injured more than 200 others, officials said.
Many residents found their houses reduced to rubble after the magnitude 7.0 temblor on Sunday along the island’s northern coast, forcing them to erect makeshift tents in their own yards, said Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, a spokesman for Indonesia’s National Disaster Management Board.
He said around 20,000 people were displaced by the earthquake, and some remained in government shelters on Monday because they were too afraid to return home.
The earthquake on Sunday, which struck at 6:46 p.m. local time, was followed by more than a dozen aftershocks, including one Monday morning that registered a magnitude of 5.4.
“People were allowed to return home since last night, but some refused because they were still traumatized,” Mr. Sutopo told reporters.
Search and rescue teams continued to comb through the debris of thousands of buildings and homes looking for survivors and victims, as the government dispatched medical support teams to the island.
Tourists were being evacuated on ships from the Gili Islands, a collection of three tiny islands that are popular for diving and snorkeling and lie just off Lombok’s northwest coast. About 2,700 foreign and Indonesian tourists had already been taken to the mainland by early Monday evening, Mr. Sutopo said.
The Indonesian president, Joko Widodo, has ordered the Ministry for Political, Legal and Security Affairs to oversee all rescue, recovery and aid efforts on Lombok.
“To the people of Lombok and surrounding areas, please keep calm,” Mr. Joko said on Twitter on Monday, as the magnitude of the destruction was being realized. “Our brothers are not alone in facing this ordeal. We are with you all.”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who was in Jakarta on an official visit during the weekend, also expressed condolences to the earthquake victims via Twitter.
It was the second deadly earthquake in a week to strike Lombok, which lies just to the east of Bali. In the early hours of July 29, a magnitude 6.4 earthquake struck in the same region of the island, killing 17 people and injuring more than 160.
The earthquake on Sunday was also felt in Bali, causing damage to structures, and on Sumbawa Island, to the east of Lombok. The temblor was also felt in Mataram, the capital of Lombok, with two shopping malls and a cathedral suffering damage.
Television footage on Sunday night showed panicked residents and tourists fleeing to safety on both Lombok and Bali, after a warning that the quake and major aftershocks could cause a devastating tsunami. That warning was later canceled.
Indonesia straddles the Pacific Ocean’s so-called Ring of Fire, which is prone to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.
Orignially published in NYT.