Quake Death Toll at 78 as Indonesia Struggles With String of Disasters

January 17, 2021 Updated: January 17, 2021

JAKARTA —At least 78 people have been killed after an earthquake struck Indonesia’s West Sulawesi province on Friday, the Search and Rescue agency (Basarnas) said on Sunday, the latest in a string of disasters to hit the Southeast Asian country.

In a statement, Basarnas confirmed 78 had died, 67 of whom were from the district of Mamuju and the rest from the district of Majene in West Sulawesi.

More than 740 people were injured and over 27,800 left their homes after the 6.2 magnitude quake, the country’s disaster mitigation agency separately (BNPB) said in a situation report. Some sought refuge in the mountains, while others went to cramped evacuation centers, witnesses said.

Indonesia earthquake
Locals ride a motorbike past a collapsed house following an earthquake in Mamuju, West Sulawesi province, Indonesia, on Jan. 17, 2021. (Abriawan Abhe/Antara Foto via Reuters)

Police and military officers have been deployed to crack down on looting in several parts of the region, BNPB spokesman Raditya Jati said.

An emergency response status, intended to help rescue efforts, has also been put in place for two weeks, Raditya said.

Dwikorita Karnawati, the head of Indonesia’s meteorological, climatology, and geophysical agency (BMKG), has said that another quake in the region could potentially trigger a tsunami.

Straddling the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire, Indonesia is regularly hit by earthquakes. In 2018, a devastating 7.5-magnitude quake and subsequent tsunami struck the city of Palu, in Sulawesi, killing thousands.

Just two weeks into the new year, the world’s fourth-most populous country is battling several disasters.

Indonesia earthquake
People stand in line for aid assistance at the Manakarra stadium following an earthquake in Mamuju, West Sulawesi province, Indonesia, on Jan. 17, 2021. (Sigid Kurniawan/Antara Foto via Reuters)

Floods in South Kalimantan and North Sulawesi have respectively killed at least 15 and five this month, while landslides in West Java province have killed at least 32, authorities said.

On Jan. 9, a Sriwijaya Air jet crashed into the Java Sea with 62 onboard.

East Java’s Semeru mountain erupted late on Saturday, but there have been no reports of casualties or evacuations.

Dwikorita said extreme weather and other “multi-dangers” of hydrometeorology are forecast in the coming weeks.

By Stanley Widianto and Agustinus Beo Da Costa