by Abu Hanifah
MATARAM, Indonesia, Aug. 8 (Xinhua) -- Indonesian rescuers were intensifying efforts to retrieve victims buried under debris on Wednesday as the death toll of a powerful earthquake hitting the Lombok resort island in Indonesia's West Nusa Tenggara (NTB) province kept rising.
Along with excavations in small collapsed buildings, operations in the larger ones that left enormous rubble and debris were conducted jointly by teams from the military, police and the national search and rescue agency.
They used heavy duty excavators to remove huge piles of rubble, paving the way for the rescuers to comb debris and retrieve bodies of those killed in the collapsed buildings.
The excavation started on Monday after the 7.0-magnitude earthquake hit the regency of North Lombok on Sunday night.
East Lombok on the island was jolted by a 6.4-magnitude quake on July 29, which killed 17 people, injured over 350 others and stranded some 500 hikers on Mount Rinjani volcano.
Bridges linking east and north Lombok collapsed, making it difficult for the rescue team to quickly mobilize excavators to North Lombok from East Lombok, where joint teams just finished their relief efforts after last week's earthquake.
Among the prioritized location for excavation was Jamiul Jamaah mosque in Karangtangsor village, North Lombok regency, since Tuesday afternoon.
The rescuers managed to retrieve the body of a female victim on Wednesday after they cleared heavy rubble of the two-floor mosque with excavators.
The body found lying lifeless under a fallen mosque pillar was identified as Salamah who lived near the mosque. Her house was also flattened by the earthquake.
Zainuddin, a relative of the perished woman, said she was attending a regular weekly prayer in the mosque when the earthquake took place.
"She failed to run out from the mosque as the lamp was out that made the panicked prayers bump to each other while they ran for their lives," Zainuddin told Xinhua, recalling the chaotic moment during the earthquake.
Locals around the village said Salamah was one of the victims trapped under the rubble. They said at least seven people remained missing in the village.
Zainuddin survived the disaster as he jumped out from the mosque, but he sustained injury in the knees when he fell on the ground.
"I felt like being pushed out from behind that made me fall. Perhaps someone bumped me in his run to get out from the mosque," the 45-year-old fisherman said.
Together with other survivors, he ran to a hill across the street in total dark after people shouted loudly, warning them of tsunami as the village was only 400 meters away from the beach.
"I quickly ran to my house and only found my wife. I grabbed her and followed the others to the hill. We stayed there the whole night until the next morning, worrying deeply about my son. My wife was crying all the time," he said in front of his cracked house.
Zainuddin added he finally reunited with his son who stayed in a police station with others throughout the night.
According to Zainuddin, Salamah was an aunt of Lalu Muhammad Zohri, an Indonesian young sprinter who recently won U20 World Championship in Finland. His family's house was also near the mosque.
Fortunately, Zohri's house, like others that made of bamboo and wood in the village, remained intact following the earthquake.
Besides in Karangtangsor village, the joint rescue team also found more bodies under the debris of a big house in Lading-Lading village and a public health center in Tanjung village.
Indonesia's National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) said the death toll of the earthquake has increased to 131 from 105 as of Tuesday with North Lombok regency recording the highest figure at 78.
The agency's updated data on Wednesday also mentioned that 1,477 people suffered injuries. It also displaced over 156,000 people and damaged 42,239 houses and 458 schools.
Indonesian authorities have activated an emergency response to recover the victims and deliver aid to those affected by the deadly earthquake.
Food, drinking water, blankets, mattress and cloths were being distributed in make-shift shelters of the affected areas and isolated villages in North Lombok regency.