Groups of hikers began to pick their way down the slopes of a Lombok volcano yesterday after a deadly earthquake triggered landslides that trapped more than 500 tourists and guides on the mountain.
Tonnes of rock and mud were dislodged on Mount Rinjani in the 6.4-magnitude quake, which struck early Sunday and was followed by scores of aftershocks, blocking the hiking routes that crisscross the mountain.
Around 560 people were estimated to be trapped on Rinjani overnight, including citizens from the United States, France, the Netherlands, Thailand and Germany, as well as many other countries,
search and rescue officials said.
Search and rescue officials said tourists had now started to descend the active volcano but were unlikely to arrive at its base before nightfall.
“At the moment both domestic and international tourists are on their way down,” I Gusti Lanang Wiswananda, a spokesman for West Nusa Tenggara search and rescue, said.
Hikers were able to start descending the mountain after guides discovered an alternate route that was unaffected by the landslides, Wiswananda said, adding the evacuation will most likely stretch into Tuesday.
Hundreds of other hikers managed to get off the mountain on Sunday, according to officials.
At least 16 people were killed in the earthquake across affected areas of Lombok, while hundreds of buildings were destroyed including a health clinic.
The quake created panic on the holiday island and sent locals and tourists running outside their homes and hotels.
Helicopters and search teams were deployed to scour the volcano’s slopes and drop food supplies for those stranded on the mountain.
The search will be halted at sunset, search and rescue officials said.
“For supplies, they can still survive for another one to two days,” Agus Hendra Sanjaya, spokesman for Mataram’s search and rescue agency, said.
Rising some 3,726m (12,224ft) above sea level, Rinjani is the second-tallest volcano in Indonesia and a favourite among sightseers keen to take in its expansive views.
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