Mataram (Indonesia): Over 700 trekkers, struck on active volcano Mount Rinjani in Indonesia`s tourist island of Lombok following an earthquake, have now started descending.
An earthquake, measuring 6.4 on the Richter scale, struck Indonesia on Sunday, killing 16 and injuring several. The quake's epicentre was on the northern part of Lombok but was also felt on the resort island of Bali to the west. More than 335 people were injured, many by collapsing buildings.
The quake was followed by series of aftershocks, which blocked the hiking routes that crisscross the mountain.
Several helicopters and search teams were deployed to scour the volcano's slopes and drop food supplies for those stranded on the mountain, reported AFP news agency.
"I thought I was going to die," said John Robyn Buenavista, a 23-year-old American told Reuters, who was at the summit when the quake hit. "I was clinging to the ground. It felt like it lasted forever. I saw people fall off, but it`s a blur."
Nearly 3,726 metres (12,224 feet) above the sea level, Mount Rinjani is the second-tallest volcano in Indonesia. Following the earthquake and more than 200 aftershocks, hiking trails were closed as boulders tumbled down the volcano.
According to authorities, a key route to the peak of the 3,726-metre (12,224-foot) volcano has now been cleared.
At least 680 people are still on Rinjani, claim authorities.
As many as 820 people - most of them foreigners - were on Mount Rinjani when the quake struck, making two trails impassable. Thais formed the largest group among the 637 foreigners who registered to climb the mountain on July 27 and 28, making up 337, with French, Dutch and Spanish the next-biggest contingents.
Authorities expected nearly 500 trekkers to arrive at the foot of the mountain by 5 pm, said Agung Pramuja, a disaster mitigation official in Indonesia`s region of West Nusa Tenggara.
A landslide triggered by the quake trapped a group of six at the crater lake of Indonesia`s second-highest volcano, he added, with about 100 army, police and other rescuers working to get people down, while helicopters scoured for those still trapped.
Earthquakes are common in Indonesia, which is located on the seismically active "Ring of Fire" on the rim of the Pacific Ocean.
With agency inputs