Sulawesi quake death toll at 84 as Indonesia battles series of disasters


General view of collapsed buildings following an earthquake in Mamuju, West Sulawesi province, Indonesia, January 17, 2021. Abriawan Abhe/Antara Foto via REUTERS

JAKARTA (Reuters) - A powerful earthquake that struck Indonesia's Sulawesi island last week has killed at least 84 people and displaced more than 30,000, according to search and rescue agency (Basarnas) data on Monday.

The 6.2-magnitude quake, one of a string of disasters to hit Indonesia in recent weeks, struck West Sulawesi early Friday morning, sending thousands fleeing from their beds.

As search and rescue operations continued on Monday, Basarnas official Didi Hamzar told a news conference that 84 people were confirmed to have died. The disaster mitigation agency BNPB said that more than 300 had been seriously injured.

The quake caused significant damage to hundreds of homes, a mall, hospital and several hotels, and has been followed by more than 39 aftershocks.

Jan Gelfand, head of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in Indonesia, said rescue teams had been working round the clock.

"Each minute has been critical in the race against time to rescue people trapped deep underneath collapsed buildings," he said.

With thousands displaced, authorities were also working to stem the spread of the coronavirus among evacuees, including by conducting rapid antigen tests, the BNPB said.

Aside from the earthquake, Indonesia suffered a plane crash on Jan. 9 that killed all 62 on board, a deadly landslide in Java, while the Merapi and Semeru volcanoes have also erupted in recent days.

President Joko Widodo flew to South Kalimantan on Borneo island on Monday to view flood affected areas where at least 15 people have died following weeks of torrential rains.

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

The country’s meteorology agency has warned of continued aftershocks, along with the risk of extreme weather in coming weeks.

(Additional Reporting by Stanley Widianto; Writing by Kate Lamb, Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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