Quake in Indonesia's Sulawesi kills at least 10, injures hundreds

Rescuers search for survivors at the Mitra Manakarra hospital in Mamuju city on January 15, 2021, where as many as 20 patients and staff are trapped beneath the rubble after the hospital was flattened. Firdaus / AFP

A 6.2-magnitude earthquake on Indonesia's Sulawesi island killed at least 10 people and injured hundreds on Friday, with the country’s meteorological agency warning of the risk of more aftershocks, potentially strong enough to produce a tsunami.

Friday’s powerful quake struck 6 km (3.73 miles) northeast of Majene, at a relatively shallow depth of 10 km, just before 1.30 am on Friday, sending thousands of panicked residents out of their homes and fleeing for higher ground.

Safaruddin Sanusi, a spokesman for the West Sulawesi provincial government, told Reuters that 10 people had died in Majene, and in the neighbouring district of Mamuju, with more fatalities likely amid ongoing search and rescue efforts.

Initial information from Indonesia’s disaster mitigation agency showed that 637 people had been injured in Majene, and two dozen in Mamuju.

The quake did not trigger a tsunami warning, but the head of Indonesia's Meteorology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG), Dwikorita Karnawati, told a news conference that strong aftershocks could follow, with a possibility that another powerful quake could trigger a tsunami.

There had been at least 26 aftershocks in the area in the past day, he said, with Friday's quake preceded by a 5.9 magnitude quake on Thursday afternoon.

"Praise be to God, for now (the situation) is OK, but we just felt another aftershock," said 26-year-old resident Sukri Efendy.

TWO HOTELS DAMAGED

The string of earthquakes caused three landslides, damaged bridges to regional hubs such as the city of Makassar, and damaged more than 60 homes, two hotels and the provincial governor’s office. Electricity in the area is also out.

West Sulawesi provincial government spokesman Safaruddin said authorities desperately needed to restore telecommunication networks and mend several damaged bridges, as well as deliver tents, staple foods and medical supplies.

As the head of the Indonesia’s disaster agency and social affairs minister are scheduled to fly to the area, pictures of the aftermath have emerged on social media.

Videos have showed residents fleeing to higher ground on motorcycles, and a child trapped under the rubble as people tried to remove debris with their bare hands.

Straddling the so-called Pacific 'Ring of Fire', Indonesia, a nation of high tectonic activity, is regularly hit by earthquakes.

In 2018, a devastating 6.2-magnitude quake and subsequent tsunami struck the city of Palu, in Sulawesi, killing thousands of people.

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