At least 42 dead after a strong earthquake

At least 42 people were killed in a powerful earthquake on the island of Celebes, Indonesia, on Friday, as relief workers searched the rubble of collapsed buildings, including a hospital, in hopes of finding survivors.

The magnitude 6.2 earthquake that struck overnight injured several hundred people and caused panic among residents of West Celebes Island, who had already suffered a major disaster in 2018.

So far, the authorities said, 34 bodies have been found in collapsed buildings in Mamuju. Eight other people were killed in the other town of Magene, in the Mamuju district.

“We don’t know how many people are missing,” said Arianto, a local relief official in Mamuju. “There are still people trapped under the rubble,” he added.

In Mamuju, the most affected city of about 110,000 residents in the area, rescuers are searching for more than a dozen patients and medical personnel who have gone missing under the rubble of a hospital. “The hospital is devastated.” “It collapsed,” said Arianto.

At least one hotel has partially collapsed and the offices of the local governor were badly damaged, rescuers said.

The magnitude 6.2 earthquake struck, according to the American Institute of Geophysics, at 2:18 am local time on Friday. The epicenter was located 36 km south of Mamuju, at a relatively shallow depth of 18 km, according to the American Institute of Geophysics (USGS).

Photos of the area show residents fleeing with motorbikes and cars, passing collapsed tin roofs and damaged buildings.

“The roads are full, and several buildings have collapsed,” said Hendra, 28, who lives in Mamuju. “The shock was very strong … I woke up and ran with my wife.”

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Hanafi, a 47-year-old man who lives in the neighboring town of Magene, suffered severe damage to his home. The wall of my house collapsed. The refrigerator and cupboard collapsed on the floor. “

The Meteorology and Geophysics Agency has warned of the possibility of more tremors, and asks residents to avoid the seashore due to the risk of a tsunami.

“The aftershocks could be strong or stronger this morning,” said Dwikorita Karnawati, head of the agency.

This warning added to residents’ anxiety.

“Everyone is terrified because the authorities warned us of the possibility of aftershocks that lead to a tsunami,” Zulkifl Bajsa, who lives in the city, told AFP.

The earthquake was followed by a landslide, cutting off access to one of the main roads in the district, and damaging Mamuju’s local airport.

The Indonesian Red Cross has sent medical aid and teams to work with rescuers.

“Our first priority is to find survivors and treat the wounded,” said Sudirman Saeed, secretary-general of the local Red Cross.

The Indonesian archipelago is located on the “Ring of Fire” in the Pacific Ocean, an area of ​​high seismic activity.

The Palu region, on Celebes Island, was already hit in September 2018 by a powerful 7.5 magnitude earthquake followed by a devastating tsunami.

This disaster left more than 4,300 dead or missing and at least 170,000 homeless.

Another devastating earthquake measuring 9.1 struck off the coast of Sumatra in 2004, triggering tsunamis that killed 220,000 people in the region, including about 170,000 in Indonesia.

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