Quake death toll at 78 as Indonesia struggles with string of disasters

More than 820 people were injured and about 15,000 left their homes after the 6.2 magnitude quake

  
Rescue workers carry a bag with the body a victim following an earthquake in Mamuju, West Sulawesi, Indonesia, January 16, 2021 in this photo taken by Antara Foto. Antara Foto/Sigid Kurniawan/ via REUTERS

Rescue workers carry a bag with the body a victim following an earthquake in Mamuju, West Sulawesi, Indonesia, January 16, 2021 in this photo taken by Antara Foto. Antara Foto/Sigid Kurniawan/ via REUTERS

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 centres, witnesses said. 

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.

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. 

(Reporting by Stanley Widianto; Editing by Himani Sarkar) ((Widianto.Stanley@thomsonreuters.com;))

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