Earthquake sets off landslides, flattens homes in Indonesia

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Residents inspect earthquake-damaged buildings in Mamuju, West Sulawesi, Indonesia, Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. A strong inland and shallow earthquake hit eastern Indonesia early Friday causing people to panic in parts of the country’s Sulawesi island and run to higher ground. (AP Photo/Rudy Akdyaksyah)

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — A strong, shallow earthquake shook Indonesia’s Sulawesi island just after midnight, causing landslides and sending people fleeing from their homes in the nighttime darkness. At least three people died and 200 were injured, but authorities were still collecting information from devastated areas.

In a video released by the National Disaster Mitigation Agency, a girl trapped in the wreckage of a house cried out for help and said her mother was alive but unable to move out. “Please help me, it’s hurt,” the girl told rescuers, who replied that they desperately wanted to help her.

In the video, the rescuers said an excavator was needed to save the girl and others trapped in collapsed buildings. Other images in the video showed a severed bridge and damaged and even flattened houses. TV stations reported the earthquake damaged part of a hospital and patients were moved to an emergency tent outside.

Another video showed a father cried hopeless, asking help from people to save his children buried under tons of his house rubble. “My children there… they are trapped inside, please help,” he cried in panic.

Thousands of displaced people were evacuated to several temporary shelters. The magnitude 6.2 quake early Friday was centered 22 miles south of West Sulawesi province’s Mamuju district, at a depth of 11 miles, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

Three people died when their homes were flattened by the quake as they were sleeping, said Sirajuddin, the Majene district’s disaster agency chief.

Sirajuddin, who goes by one name, said at least 218 people were injured so far, as more than 300 houses and buildings were damaged, including a hospital, health clinics, hotels and offices.

He said although the inland earthquake did not have the potential to cause a tsunami, people along coastal areas ran to higher ground in fear one might occur. Some 10,000 people are now in several temporary shelters.

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In its neighboring district of Mamuju, at least 62 houses, a public health center and a military office were damaged and landslides were set off in three locations and blocked a main road connecting Mamuju to the Majene district, said Raditya Jati, the disaster agency’s spokesperson. He said the agency is still collecting data from areas struck by the quake.

On Thursday, a magnitude 5.9 quake hit under the sea in the same region, damaging several homes but causing no apparent casualties.

Indonesia, a vast archipelago of 260 million people, is frequently struck by earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis because of its location on the “Ring of Fire,” an arc of volcanoes and fault lines in the Pacific Basin.

In 2018, a 7.5 magnitude earthquake in Palu on Sulawesi island set off a tsunami and caused soil to collapse in a phenomenon called liquefaction. More than 4,000 people died, many of the victims buried when whole neighborhoods were swallowed in the falling ground.

A powerful Indian Ocean quake and tsunami in 2004 killed 230,000 people in a dozen countries, most of them in Indonesia.

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