Angie Teo, Jakarta – A 6.2-magnitude earthquake on Indonesia's Sulawesi island has killed at least 35 people and injured hundreds the country's disaster mitigation agency said, as panicked residents fled to safer areas after many buildings were damaged.
Safaruddin Sanusi, a spokesman for the West Sulawesi provincial government, told Reuters that 35 people had died in Majene, and in the neighbouring district of Mamuju, with more fatalities likely amid ongoing search and rescue efforts.
Initial information from Indonesia's disaster mitigation agency showed that 637 people had been injured in Majene, and two dozen in Mamuju. The epicentre of the quake was 6 kilometres north-east of Majene city at a depth of 10 kilometres.
Thousands had fled their homes to seek safety when the quake hit just after 1am local time on Friday, damaging at least 60 homes, the agency said. Hours earlier on Thursday, a 5.9-magnitude earthquake struck in the same district damaging several houses.
The Friday inland and shallow quake was felt strongly for about seven seconds, causing people to panic in parts of the island and run to higher ground 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.
There had been at least 26 aftershocks in the area in the past day, according to the head of Indonesia's Meteorology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG), Dwikorita Karnawati, with Friday's quake preceded by a 5.9 magnitude quake on Thursday afternoon.
"Praise be to God, for now (the situation) is OK, but we just felt another aftershock," said 26-year-old resident Sukri Efendy.
The string of earthquakes caused three landslides, damaged bridges to regional hubs such as the city of Makassar, and damaged more than 60 homes, two hotels and the provincial governor's office. Electricity in the area is also out.
West Sulawesi provincial government spokesman Safaruddin said authorities desperately needed to restore telecommunication networks and mend several damaged bridges, as well as deliver tents, staple foods and medical supplies.
As the head of the Indonesia's disaster agency and social affairs minister are scheduled to fly to the area, pictures of the aftermath have emerged on social media.
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.
Strong aftershocks could follow, the chief of Indonesia's Meteorology and Geophysics agency (BMKG) said.
Dwikorita Karnawati told a news conference there had been at least 26 aftershocks after two strong quakes had rocked the area.
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.