Sandals point to victims in mosque shattered by Indonesia quake

Lading-Lading: A shattered mosque in quake-hit northern Lombok, where sandals remain scattered outside its entrance, has become a focal point of the rescue effort after one weeping man was hauled out of the wreckage.

An unknown number of worshippers were performing evening prayers at the Jabal Nur mosque in the village of Lading-Lading on Sunday when the 6.9-magnitude quake sent deadly tremors coursing through the ground.

Congregants described chaotic scenes as the shallow quake hit, bringing down walls and bending the minaret. Some got out before the roof came down, others did not.

“We were praying when suddenly an extremely strong shaking occurred,” Tara, who like many Indonesians only has one name, told AFP.

“I immediately grabbed my grandson, who is three years old, everyone was then scrambling to get out,” he added.

As many as 50 people may have been in the mosque at the time of the quake, another witness named Kelana told AFP.

“Our imam ran, so the others followed,” the 53-year-old said, adding he couldn’t tell how many people managed to escape.

Police, soldiers and volunteers have worked frantically to remove debris from the site in scenes repeated across the picturesque volcanic island, which draws holidaymakers from around the world.

On Monday there was a brief moment of success. Video posted by rescuers online showed a dazed and disorientated man, dust-covered and still wearing his prayer cap, pulled alive from the twisted remains of the building.

“You’re safe sir, you’re safe,” one rescuer said as the man burst into sobs.

But the emergency crews have also had to contend with death. Three times now they have come across and removed broken bodies crushed under the weight of tonnes of concrete and rebar.

Rescuers have used concrete cutters and excavators to claw through the rubble, while shattered roads had initially hampered efforts to bring heavy machinery into the village.

Rescuers say they will not stop looking.

“We estimate there are still more victims because we found many sandals in front of the mosque,” national disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, told reporters on Tuesday.

Across much of Lombok, once bustling villages have been turned into virtual ghost towns, with residents sleeping out in the open, scared to stay near their shattered homes amid regular aftershocks.

Eerie footage filmed in Tanjung district in the island’s north showed streets deserted, save for a few nervous residents and motorcycles passing along the dusty main road.

Power lines have been toppled and many houses reduced to piles of stone and plaster.

More than 20,000 people are believed to have been made homeless, with 236 severely injured. Officials expect the toll to rise.