A powerful earthquake rocked Indonesia’s Sulawesi island early on Friday, killing at least 35 people, levelling a hospital and severely damaging other buildings, authorities said.
Hundreds more were injured when the 6.2-magnitude quake 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 some 110,000 in West Sulawesi province, bringing the total death toll to 34.
Rescuers were searching for more than a dozen patients and staff trapped beneath the rubble of the levelled Mamuju hospital.
“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.
Rescuers were also trying to reach a family of eight trapped under the rubble of their destroyed home, he added.
The country’s search-and-rescue agency said at least one hotel had partially collapsed after the quake struck at 2.18am local time Friday, while the regional governor’s office also suffered extensive damage.
A Mamuju resident said damage across the city was severe.
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 epicentre of the quake was six kilometres (3.73 miles) northeast of Majene city at a depth of 10 kilometres.
Indonesia’s disaster mitigation agency says death toll could go up as many of the dead are buried under rubble.
Indonesian disaster agency says the quake death toll could be 26
Indonesia warns of potential tsunami if more strong quakes hit Sulawesi
Meteorogical and geophysics agency warns of strong aftershocks after the Indonesian earthquake. There had been at least 26 aftershocks after two strong quakes.
Indonesia quake flattens hospital, patients and staff trapped inside, says rescue agency
Some buildings were badly damaged, including two hotels, the office of the governor of West Sulawesi 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.
Thousands had fled their homes to seek safety when the quake hit just after 1 am local time on Friday morning, 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.
Indonesia’s disaster agency said a series of quakes in the past 24 hours had caused at least three landslides, and the electricity supply had been cut.
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.