By Agencies and published by Channel NewsAsia
Jakarta: At least 34 people were killed after a 6.2-magnitude earthquake rocked Indonesia’s Sulawesi Island early this morning (Jan. 15), said authorities.
Hundreds more were injured when the earthquake struck in the early hours, triggering panic among the terrified residents of the island.
“The latest information we have is that 26 people are dead … in Mamuju city,” said Ali Rahman, head of the local disaster mitigation agency, adding “that number could grow”.
“Many of the dead are buried under rubble,” he said.
Separately, the national disaster agency said at least eight people had died in an area south of Mamuju, a city of 110,000 in West Sulawesi province, bringing the total death toll to 34.
The epicentre of the quake was 6km northeast of Majene city, at a depth of 10km.
Thousands fled their homes to seek safety when the quake hit just after 1 a.m. today, damaging at least 60 homes, the agency said.
The quake was felt strongly for about seven seconds but did not trigger a tsunami warning.
Videos on social media 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.
Some buildings were badly damaged, including two hotels, the governor’s office and a mall, Sudirman Samual, a journalist based in Mamuju, north of the epicentre, told Reuters.
At least one route into Mamuju had been cut off, he said, due to damage to a bridge.
“The hospital is flattened – it collapsed,” said Arianto from the rescue agency in Mamuju city, who goes by one name.
“There are patients and hospital employees trapped under the rubble and we’re now trying to reach them,” he added, without giving a specific figure.
Arianto said rescuers were also trying to reach a family of eight trapped under the rubble of their destroyed home.
The meteorological agency warned residents that the area could be hit by strong aftershocks and to avoid the beachfront in case of a tsunami.
“The aftershocks could be as strong, or stronger, than this morning’s quake,” said Dwikorita Karnawati, chief of the meteorological agency.
“There is potential for a tsunami from subsequent aftershocks … Don’t wait for a tsunami first because they can happen very quickly,” she added.
Straddling the 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.
On Dec 26, 2004, a 9.1-magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Sumatra and triggered a tsunami that killed 220,000 throughout the region, including around 170,000 in Indonesia.
In Thailand this tsunami killed 4,812 people, injured 8,457 others with 4,499 missing. It was Khao Lak that was hardest hit with many foreign tourists among the victims.
Top: Residents inspect earthquake-damaged houses in Mamuju, West Sulawesi on Jan. 15, 2021 after a strong inland and shallow earthquake hit eastern Indonesia. Photo: AP Photo/Rudy Akdyaksyah and published by CNA
First insert: Residents crowd a road as they attempt to leave Mamuju on Jan. 15, 2021, after a 6.2-magnitude earthquake rocked Indonesia’s Sulawesi island. Photo: AFP/Firdaus and published by CNA
Second insert: A man walks by a damaged hospital in Mamuju city on Jan. 15, 2021, after a 6.2-magnitude earthquake rocked Indonesia’s Sulawesi island. Photo: AFP/Firdaus and published by CNA
Below: Residents inspect earthquake-damaged houses in Mamuju, West Sulawesi on Jan. 15, 2021 after a strong inland and shallow earthquake hit eastern Indonesia. Photo: AP Photo/Rudy Akdyaksyah and published by CNA
Watch The Guardian’s video of today’s earthquake in Indonesia: