The Jakarta Post
All-out efforts of the government in rescuing hundreds of hikers trapped on Mount Rinjani, West Nusa Tenggara, are not without strong reason.
Some 140 personnel from the Army’s Special Forces (Kopassus) have been deployed from Jakarta as part of the rescue mission, which is as urgent as providing shelter and staple foods to the thousands of people who have been displaced by the 6.4-magnitude earthquake.
Sixteen people are confirmed dead as of Monday, including a Malaysian national and a hiker hit by a landslide.
The powerful quake shook the tourist island of Lombok early on Sunday, followed by more than 100 aftershocks that have kept many residents from returning home.
According to National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, about 820 climbers, mostly foreigners, were on the volcano when the earthquake struck. Subsequent aftershocks triggered landslides, making two of the volcano’s popular trekking paths impassable.
Rinjani, the second-tallest volcano in the country, is a popular destination for hikers, both from Indonesia and overseas. Local authorities immediately closed the volcano following the quake.
To prevent more fatalities, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, who visited the displaced victims and ensured they would receive adequate assistance, ordered a quick rescue of the stranded climbers.
Similarly, Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar called for the speedy relocation of displaced residents, using any means possible.
The climbers trapped on Rinjani need urgent help, and the rescue team could be the difference between life and death. Footage aired by a local TV station showed the hikers gathered together and praying as they waited to be rescued.
It remains unknown how long the rescue operation — which was still underway as of late on Monday — will last, but we hope that everyone involved will return safely.
Beyond all the challenges the rescue personnel must face, the Rinjani mission will provide our search and rescue workers new knowledge and experience they may need in the future. For professionals like them, practice will make perfect.
Rinjani has been cordoned off a number of times and for various reasons, ranging from extreme weather to volcanic activity.
The earthquake on Sunday was a result of the Flores back arc thrust, according to the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG). Although it did not spark a tsunami as happened in Flores in neighboring East Nusa Tenggara in 1992, the quake inflicted serious damage on hundreds of houses and buildings across Lombok.
Reconstruction work should follow in order to help the quake victims continue their lives. Those who were injured and felt the trauma also need healing. No less important is the need for local authorities to keep tourism in Lombok, particularly surrounding Mount Rinjani, alive.