Indonesia mounted a rescue operation Monday to reach more than 500 hikers and guides stranded by landslides on an active volcano on Lombok, a day after a powerful earthquake struck the holiday island.
Helicopters and search teams have been deployed to scour the slopes of Mount Rinjani, which is crisscrossed with hiking routes popular with tourists, while rescuers have made airdrops of food supplies to those stranded.
Tonnes of rock and mud were dislodged on the mountain in the 6.4-magnitude quake, which struck early Sunday and was followed by scores of aftershocks, leaving hikers with no easy way down to safety.
“There are still 560 people trapped,” said the head of Rinjani national park Sudiyono, who goes by one name.
Those believed to be stranded include citizens from the United States, France, the Netherlands, Thailand and Germany, as well as many other countries, search and rescue officials said.
Hundreds of other hikers managed to get off the mountain on Sunday, according to officials.
At least 16 people were killed in the earthquake across affected areas of Lombok, while hundreds of buildings were destroyed including a health clinic.
The quake created panic on the holiday island and sent locals and tourists running outside their homes and hotels.
The rescue operation on Mount Rinjani is likely to run until at least Tuesday and a military helicopter has dropped supplies at several spots on the mountain.
“For supplies, they can still survive for another one to two days,” Agus Hendra Sanjaya, spokesman for Mataram’s search and rescue agency, told AFP.
Rising some 3,726 metres (12,224 feet) above sea level, Rinjani is the second-tallest volcano in Indonesia and a favourite among sightseers keen to take in its expansive views.
Hiking trails on the mountain were closed following the quake due to fear of further landslides.
Thailand’s embassy in Jakarta said 239 of its citizens were stuck in the area surrounding the mountain.