A strong shallow earthquake struck the Indonesian island of Sulawesi shortly after midnight local time, knocking over houses and buildings, causing landslides and killing at least 15 people.
More than 600 people were injured during the 6.2 magnitude earthquake, which caused people to flee their homes in darkness. Authorities were still collecting information on the full scale of casualties and damage in the affected areas.
There were reports of many people trapped in the rubble of collapsed houses and buildings.
In a video released by the National Agency for Disaster Mitigation, a girl trapped in the rubble of a house screamed for help and said she heard the sound of other family members also trapped.
“Please help me, it hurts,” the girl told rescuers, who responded that they desperately wanted to help her.
Rescuers said a bulldozer was needed to save the girl and others trapped in collapsed buildings.
Other images showed a bridge cut down and houses damaged and flattened. Television stations reported that the earthquake damaged part of a hospital and patients were transferred to an emergency tent outside.
Another video showed a father crying and asking for help to save his children buried under his collapsed house.
“They’re trapped inside, please help me,” he yelled.
Thousands of displaced people were evacuated to temporary shelters.
The quake had its epicenter 36 kilometers south of the Mamuju district of West Sulawesi province, at a depth of 18 kilometers, the United States Geological Survey said.
Indonesia’s disaster agency said in a statement that eight people were killed by collapsing houses and buildings, and more than 600 people were injured in neighboring Majene district alone.
He said that at least 300 houses and a health clinic were damaged and some 15,000 people were staying in temporary shelters in the district. Power and telephones were cut off in many areas.
West Sulawesi Administration Secretary Muhammad Idris told TVOne that the governor’s office building was among those that collapsed in Mamuju, the provincial capital, and many people remain trapped there, including two security guards.
Idris said seven people have been confirmed dead so far in Mamuju.
Rescuer Saidar Rahmanjaya said a lack of heavy equipment was hampering the operation to clear debris from collapsed houses and buildings.
He said his team was working to save 20 people trapped in eight buildings, including the governor’s office, a hospital and hotels.
“We are running against time to rescue them,” Rahmanjaya said.
Among those killed in Majene were three people who died when their houses were razed by the earthquake in their sleep, said Sirajuddin, head of the district’s disaster agency.
Sirajuddin, who has a name, said that although the inland earthquake did not have the potential to cause a tsunami, people in coastal areas ran to higher ground for fear of one occurring.
Landslides occurred in three locations and blocked a main road connecting Mamuju with the Majene district, said Raditya Jati, a spokeswoman for the disaster agency.
Yesterday, an underwater earthquake of magnitude 5.9 shook the same region, damaging several houses but without apparent victims.
Indonesia, a vast archipelago of 260 million people, is frequently hit by earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis due to its location on the “Ring of Fire,” an arc of volcanoes and faults in the Pacific Rim.
In 2018, a magnitude 7.5 earthquake in Palu on the island of Sulawesi triggered a tsunami and caused the ground to collapse in a phenomenon called liquefaction. More than 4,000 people died, many of the victims buried when entire neighborhoods were swallowed up by the collapsing ground.
A powerful earthquake and tsunami in the Indian Ocean in 2004 killed 230,000 people in a dozen countries, most of them in Indonesia.