Rising waters in Indian Himalayas disrupt rescue bid in tunnel after avalanche

By Alasdair Pal and Neha Arora

TAPOVAN, India (Reuters) – Authorities in India warned on Thursday of rising water levels in a Himalayan river valley hit by a major avalanche as they scaled back a search for 35 construction workers trapped in a flooded tunnel.

Rescue workers have found the bodies of 36 people since Sunday’s avalanche that tore through dams and swept away bridges in the Dhauliganga river valley of Uttarakhand state.

Some 171 people remain unaccounted for, most of them workers at the state-run Tapovan Vishnugad hydroelectric project and at the smaller Rishiganga dam, which was swept away by the avalanche-driven torrent.

An official with the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) said the number of rescue teams were limited at the tunnel site after river water levels began to surge.

“There was an input from a village that the river upstream was swelling so we sounded an alert. The rescue mission was stopped for about 30 minutes,” Swati Bhadoriya, Chamoli District Magistrate, told Reuters.

Relief workers have been drilling inside a 2.5-km-long tunnel connected to the Tapovan project, where slush and water has been so heavy that soldiers have made only halting progress in four days.

Experts have cautioned there could be still be huge amounts of rock, debris, ice and water that could get released due to changes in temperatures.

“Snow melt or rain could trigger a debris flow at any moment, probably not of the size of the event on Sunday, but critical for anybody and anything close to the river,” said Holger Frey, a senior scientist with the Glaciology and Geomorphodynamics Group (3G) in the geography faculty at the University of Zurich.

RESCUE EFFORTS, DISTRAUGHT FAMILIES

After clearing more than 100 meters of mud, rocks and debris, relief workers on Thursday sent water tankers and generators deep into the tunnel to assist in drilling.

They were searching for signs of life in smaller tunnels and rooms branching off from the main passage, officials said.

Relatives continued to arrive at the site, but five days after the disaster, frustration at the lack of progress mounted.

“They are not telling us anything,” said Praveen Saini, whose nephew, Ajay Kumar Saini, is trapped in the tunnel.

Another man was clinging to hope that his brother had survived after he was able to ring his mobile phone. “If his phone survived, maybe he survived,” Jugal Kishore said.

Originally thought to be a glacier breaking apart in India’s second highest mountain Nanda Devi and crashing into the river, some scientists now say the flood was more likely to have been caused by an avalanche.

“It appears that the event was caused by a very large rockfall from high up the mountainside which picked up lots of snow and ice on the way down and melted these because of the frictional heat created by the rock fall,” said Stephan Harrison, professor of Climate and Environmental Change at the University of Exeter in Britain.

(Additional reporting by Saurabh Sharma and Neha Arora; Writing by Neha Arora; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani and Mark Heinrich)

Trapped China gold miners have to wait 15 days for rescue

By Emily Chow

QIXIA, China (Reuters) – Workers trapped in a gold mine in China since Jan. 10 may have to wait another 15 days before they can be rescued because of a blockage on their intended escape route, officials said on Thursday.

A total of 22 workers were trapped underground after an explosion at the Hushan mine in Qixia, a major gold-producing region under the administration of Yantai in Shandong province on the northeast coast.

One is confirmed to have died, while 11 are known to be alive. The remaining 10 are missing.

Rescuers were drilling new shafts on Thursday to reach 10 of the men in the middle section of the mine, more than 600 meters from the entrance, who have been sent food and medical supplies. Another survivor has been found in a different section.

The shafts include one 711-mm (28-inch) diameter shaft that rescuers hope to use to bring the survivors to safety.

However, at least another 15 days may be needed to clear obstacles, Gong Haitao, deputy head of Yantai’s propaganda department, told a news conference at the headquarters of the rescue operation.

A “severe blockage” 350 meters down was much worse than feared, officials said, adding that it was about 100 meters thick and weights some 70 tonnes.

Thick smog, reeking of chemicals, hung over the muddy road leading up to the mine site and a row of ambulances on standby in a carpark, reducing visibility to a few hundred meters.

Police have sealed off the road to the mine, cutting through muddy apple orchards and warehouses, to ensure rescue efforts are not hampered. Health workers in white protective gear took temperatures beside mounded earth and tents as part of COVID-19 precautions.

About 600 people are involved in the rescue, with as many as 25 ambulances waiting at the scene, as well as neurosurgeons, trauma specialists and psychologists.

A Reuters team saw fire trucks and cars coming and going through a checkpoint on an approach road.

China’s mines are among the world’s deadliest. It has recorded 573 mine-related deaths in 2020, according to the National Mine Safety Administration.

(Reporting by Emily Chow in Qixia; Writing by David Stanway, Gabriel Crossley and Michael Perry and Tom Daly; Editing by Robert Birsel and Gerry Doyle)

Trapped China gold miners get porridge, blankets, one miner in coma – state media

BEIJING (Reuters) – Workers trapped in a Chinese gold mine for more than nine days received more medical and food supplies on Tuesday, including bandages, blankets and porridge, but one of the group is in critical condition with a severe head injury, state media said.

A total of 22 workers were left trapped in the Hushan mine, in Shandong province, after an explosion on Jan. 10. A week later, it emerged that at least 12 of them were still alive as a note retrieved from the mine said: “We hope the rescue won’t stop.”

A drilled channel on Sunday located 11 of the miners, who were working more than 600 meters underground, and rescuers were subsequently able to speak to them via wired telephone.

The official Xinhua news agency said the miners had requested on Monday evening sausage and pickles as well as porridge but medical experts decided they should not eat hard food having only just regained their strength.

Fortified by the food and medical supplies – the fourth consignment to reach the group – two workers who had previously been very weak were able to walk again on Tuesday, Xinhua reported, citing a member of the rescue team.

However, the People’s Daily said one worker was in a coma, in critical condition, after sustaining a head injury in the blast, while two were “mildly unwell” and eight in good health.

One more worker has been located in another section of the mine, while the whereabouts of the other 10 remain unknown.

News that some of the miners are still alive has boosted Chinese netizens’ hopes for a miraculous escape, with thousands leaving prayer messages on China’s Twitter-like Weibo platform and calling on the authorities to “please speed up the rescue”.

China’s National Mine Safety Administration has ordered a comprehensive inspection of the country’s non-coal mines, which will run until the end of March, the People’s Daily reported.

There are 32,000 non-coal mines in China, most of which are small, use outdated technology and equipment, and have poor safety management it said, citing an administration official.

(Reporting by Beijing bureau; Editing by Gareth Jones)

‘Worse than combat:’ Helicopters rescue hundreds from California wildfire

By Andrew Hay

(Reuters) – U.S. military helicopters on Tuesday plucked dozens more campers, hikers and locals from the path of a raging California wildfire, with one pilot describing conditions as more dangerous than combat.

California Army National Guard Chinook and Black Hawk helicopters were flying into dense smoke, sometimes landing within 50 feet of flames while an extreme wildfire burned through a dead forest in Central California.

Pilots and crews were packing aircraft with burn victims and evacuees, rescuing about 100 people on Tuesday, said Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Shiroma.

Crews have airlifted around 360 people and 16 dogs since the Creek Fire, the cause of which is under investigation, in mountains 35 miles northeast of Fresno on Saturday.

Kipp Goding landed multiple times at a campsite where people gathered on a lake dock as everything around them burned, filling his UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter to capacity.

“Every piece of vegetation you could see as far as you could see around that lake was on fire,” Goding, an Army National Guard pilot, said on a video call.

He told two people on his last landing that it was their final chance to go, but they chose to stay with their motor homes.

Two helicopter pilots have died since mid-August fighting wildfires in California and Oregon and Goding said the missions were worse than getting shot at in combat.

“The added stress and workload of going in and out of that fire is definitely by far the toughest flying I’ve ever done,” said Goding, who has flown 25 years for the Army.

A decade-long drought allowed beetles to kill around 90 percent of trees in the Sierra National Forest area. Rising average temperatures, combined with recent heat waves, parched ground vegetation, creating optimal fire conditions.

Pilots are flying at night using night vision goggles to see through dense smoke that during the daytime can make missions impossible.

“Those night vision goggles allowed us to keep on going one ridge further,” Goding said.

(Reporting by Andrew Hay; Editing by Bill Tarrant and Peter Cooney)

Recovery on Bahamas begins as Hurricane Dorian heads for Florida, Carolinas

An aerial view shows devastation after hurricane Dorian hit the Abaco Islands in the Bahamas, September 3, 2019, in this image obtained via social media. Michelle Cove/Trans Island Airways/via REUTERS

By Dante Carrer

MARSH HARBOUR, Bahamas (Reuters) – Debris extended for miles and floods covered much of the Bahamas in the wake of Hurricane Dorian, in what the archipelago’s prime minister called one of the worst disasters to ever strike the island nation.

Emergency workers struggled to reach victims as search and rescue operations continued into Wednesday and the scope of the damage and humanitarian crisis unfolded.

“We are in the midst of one of the greatest national crises in our country’s history,” Bahamas Prime Minister Hubert Minnis told a news conference. “No effort or resources will be held back.”

News media reported early on Wednesday that some storm victims remained stuck on rooftops, waiting for rescue. The official death count of seven is expected rise in the coming days.

An aerial view shows devastation after hurricane Dorian hit the Abaco Islands in the Bahamas, September 3, 2019, in this image obtained via social media. Michelle Cove/Trans Island Airways/via REUTERS

An aerial view shows devastation after hurricane Dorian hit the Abaco Islands in the Bahamas, September 3, 2019, in this image obtained via social media. Michelle Cove/Trans Island Airways/via REUTERS

“We can expect more deaths to be recorded. This is just preliminary information,” Minnis told a news conference.

“Marsh Harbor has suffered, I would estimate, in excess of 60 percent damage to their homes,” Minnis said, referring to the port on Great Abaco.

“The Mud, as we know, has been completely destroyed or decimated,” he said referring to a shantytown known as the Mud and the Peas.

Aerial video of the Bahamas’ Great Abaco Island showed miles of flooded neighborhoods, pulverized buildings, upturned boats and shipping containers scattered like toys. Many buildings had walls or roofs partly ripped off.

“Victims are being loaded on flatbed trucks across Abaco,” said one Twitter poster with the handle @mvp242, describing a rain-blurred photograph of limp bodies strewn across a truck bed. Other Twitter messages said whole communities were swept away.

Dorian’s winds had diminished to a Category 2 storm on the five-step Saffir-Simpson intensity scale, the hurricane grew in size and picked up speed.

Forecasters said it would come dangerously close to Florida’s east coast on Wednesday, where more than a million people have been ordered evacuated.

Dorian packed sustained winds of 105 miles per hour (165 kph) and was moving north-northwest at 8 mph, as it churned about 90 miles east of Daytona Beach, Florida, the NHC said in a 5 a.m. EDT (0900 GMT) advisory.

“On this track, the core of Hurricane Dorian will move dangerously close to the Florida east coast and the Georgia coast through tonight,” a 5 a.m. NHC advisory said.

Hurricane-force winds had expanded to 60 miles from the storm’s core. “Dorian is expected to remain a powerful hurricane during the next couple of days,” the NHC said.

Heavy rains and storm surge waters moving inland could cause life-threatening flash floods, the NHC said. The risk extended from Jupiter, Fla., to Surf City, N.C. Tornadoes are possible along the Florida coast until tonight, with the risk later moving to Georgia and South Carolina.

An aerial view shows devastation after hurricane Dorian hit the Abaco Islands in the Bahamas, September 3, 2019, in this image obtained via social media. Michelle Cove/Trans Island Airways/via REUTERS

An aerial view shows devastation after hurricane Dorian hit the Abaco Islands in the Bahamas, September 3, 2019, in this image obtained via social media. Michelle Cove/Trans Island Airways/via REUTERS

LONG LISTS OF MISSING

With telephones down on Abaco and Grand Bahama islands, residents posted lists of missing loved ones across social media.

A single Facebook post by media outlet Our News Bahamas seeking the names of missing people had 1,600 comments listing lost family members since it went live on Tuesday morning.

The exact toll in the Bahamas will not be clear until the storm passes and rescue crews can get to devastated areas, said Theo Neilly, the Bahamian consul general in Washington.

“We expect it to be very devastating and the damage to be extreme,” Neilly said. Dorian has battered the Bahamas for the past three days.

As many as 13,000 homes in the Bahamas may have been destroyed or severely damaged, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said, in the strongest storm ever to hit the Bahamas.

Food may be required for 14,500 people in the northern Bahamas’ Abaco Islands and for 45,700 people in Grand Bahama, the U.N. World Food Programme said in a statement. The preliminary estimates were based on an assessment by representatives of Caribbean nations, the WFP and other groups.

The U.S. Agency for International Development said on Twitter it was air-lifting critical relief items, such as plastic sheeting, hygiene kits, and water containers, from Miami to the Bahamas. The U.S. Coast Guard said four of its helicopters were assisting in humanitarian efforts.

Dorian, which killed one person in Puerto Rico before striking the Bahamas on Sunday, is tied for the second-strongest Atlantic storm to make landfall with Gilbert (1988), Wilma (2005) and the 1935 Labor Day hurricane.

Tropical-storm-force winds and rain squalls were already lashing parts of the Florida coast early on Wednesday, and hurricane-force winds are possible today. The winds and heavy surf is likely to hit the Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina coasts by late on Thursday. More than a million people were ordered to evacuate coastal counties in those states.

President Donald Trump declared a state of emergency for South Carolina on Tuesday, freeing funds, other federal resources and manpower to assist during the storm and aftermath recovery. Emergencies have already been declared in Florida and Georgia.

(Reporting by Dante Carrer in Marsh Harbour, Bahamas; Zachary Fagenson in Jacksonville, Florida; Gabriella Borter in Titusville, Florida; Peter Szekely and Matthew Lavietes in New York;, Rich McKay in Atlanta; Idrees Ali in Washington: Andrew Hay in Taos, New Mexico; and and Rebekah F. Ward in Mexico City; editing by Larry King)

A year later, Thailand’s rescued ‘cave boys’ honor diver who died

Members of the Wild Boars soccer team pose for a photo during their return to the Tham Luang caves, where they were trapped in a year ago, in Chiang Rai, Thailand, June 24, 2019. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun

By Prapan Chankaew

CHIANG RAI, Thailand (Reuters) – A Thai soccer team trapped in a cave last year for 17 days returned there on Monday to perform Buddhist rituals honoring a former navy diver killed in the dramatic effort to rescue them that captivated the world.

A year after their ordeal, the team of 12, wearing yellow T-shirts, accompanied by their coach, gave alms to monks in honor of Sergeant Saman Kunan, who died while he worked underwater.

“I want to thank Sergeant Sam,” Ekkapol Chantawong, assistant coach of the Wild Boars soccer team, told Reuters Video News, as the group placed flowers before a portrait of the diver, set beside a row of shaven-headed monks in orange robes.

“Without him, I and the boys would not be standing here.”

The team, aged between 11 and 16, were trapped with their coach on June 23, 2018 when a rainy season downpour flooded the tunnels of a cave complex they were exploring in the northern province of Chiang Rai.

The race to rescue them gripped public attention as experts from around the world volunteered to help.

Saman Kunan, a former member of an elite Thai Navy SEAL unit, died on the night of July 5 after entering the cave to place oxygen tanks along a potential exit route.

Saman’s wife, Waleeporn Kunan, said the boys always expressed their gratitude to her when they crossed paths in the district where they all live.

“Every time they see me, they would run over just like back then right after their rescue,” she said.

The boys received soccer shirts and offers of tours and match tickets as their rescue unfolded during the World Cup.

A year later, fascination with the saga has yet to die down.

Netflix said in April it had signed a deal to make a miniseries about the rescue, to be directed by “Crazy Rich Asians” director Jon M. Chu and Nattawut “Baz” Poonpiriya.

Two books about the rescue have been published, and a feature film by British-Thai director Tom Waller, “The Cave”, wrapped shooting in December, the Hollywood Reporter has said.

The boys, regarded as national treasures in Thailand, declined to be interviewed and referred questions to their soccer coach.

“Life is the same but now more people know about me,” said Ekkapol, who founded a new soccer team, Ekkapol Academy, for underprivileged and stateless children.

Ekkapol, who is from a minority group in Myanmar, was granted Thai citizenship after the rescue, as were several of the rescued boys who were also stateless.

“The football team is to encourage the boys, especially the border boys, to have somewhere they can play football. To have their own field and a brighter future,” he said.

(Reporting by Prapan Chankaew, Panu Wongcha-um and Panarat Thepgumpanat; editing by Darren Schuettler and Clarence Fernandez)

Severe thunderstorm in Nepal leaves 25 dead, hundreds injured

Villagers stand near the debris of their houses after it was hit by the storm in Bara district, Nepal April 1, 2019. REUTERS/Navesh Chitrakar

By Gopal Sharma

KATHMANDU (Reuters) – Over two dozen people were killed in a severe thunderstorm that swept through parts of southern Nepal late on Sunday and hundreds more were injured, police and officials said.

Nepal’s Prime Minster K.P. Sharma Oli in a tweet said 25 people had been killed, and around 400 were injured.

“Helicopters have been kept ready for immediate rescue and relief,” Oli said in his post. He offered condolences to the families of the victims.

Rajesh Paudel, the top bureaucrat of Bara district, where the storm hit, said the death toll may increase as rescuers were still trying to reach many of those affected. 

Bara is located about 62 km (39 miles) south of Kathmandu and borders India’s eastern state of Bihar.

Pre-monsoon thunderstorms are common in Nepal during the spring season but are rarely of an intensity that causes high casualties.

Police officer Sanu Ram Bhattarai said rescue teams had been dispatched to the affected villages, but reaching the victims was difficult at night.

Television channels said the storm and accompanying heavy rainfall, uprooted trees and electric and telephone poles, crushing some people to death.

(Reporting by Gopal Sharma; Editing by Susan Fenton)

Toddler rescue effort reaches most dangerous stage in Spain: engineer

A drill (C) is driven to work at the area where Julen, a Spanish two-year-old boy, fell into a deep well eight days ago when the family was taking a stroll through a private estate, in Totalan, southern Spain January 21, 2019. REUTERS/Jon Nazca

TOTALAN, Spain (Reuters) – Efforts to reach a two-year-old boy who fell into a borehole in southern Spain more than a week ago are nearing their most dangerous stage, an engineer on the rescue team said on Monday.

The toddler, Julen, fell down the shaft as his family walked through a private estate in Totalan, Malaga on Jan. 13. There have been no signs of life since.

Miners have been drilling day and night to create a parallel shaft, hoping they will be able to cut across by Tuesday to find the child.

Work slowed on Sunday after the drill bit hit hard rock and officials said there was a risk of more collapses as they carved out the horizontal passage.

“The most dangerous part, the most delicate part, still remains to be done,” mining engineer Juan Lopez Escobar told Canal Sur.

“It is a complicated job where lives will be at risk, but they have practiced that, and they are the best,” he added.

Rescuers found that the borehole – 100 meters (300 feet) deep and just 25 cm (10 inches) wide – was blocked with earth, raising fears that soil had collapsed onto the child.

“We’re at 53 meters, and we’re just another seven meters away (from where) we start the next job of creating the chamber,” Angel Vidal, the lead engineer overseeing the work, told reporters.

Spanish miners and engineers have been joined by workers from a Swedish firm who helped locate 33 Chilean miners rescued after 69 days underground more than seven years ago.

Children and families have joined candlelight vigils across Spain in support of the missing boy.

El Pais reported that his parents suffered another tragedy in 2017 when their three-year-old son died suddenly after suffering a cardiac arrest while walking along a beach.

(Reporting by Miguel Pereira; writing by Jose Elias Rodriguez and Paul Day, editing by Andrei Khalip and Andrew Heavens)

Hurricane Florence: A picture and its story: Dogs in the disaster zone

FILE PHOTO: Panicked dogs that were left caged by an owner who fled rising floodwater in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence, are rescued by volunteer rescuer Ryan Nichols of Longview, Texas, in Leland, North Carolina, U.S., September 16, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake/File Photo

By Jonathan Drake

LELAND, N.C. (Reuters) – Three days after Hurricane Florence made landfall in North Carolina, I was documenting the damage to Wilmington and communities to the south when I was tipped that volunteer rescuers were headed to a Leland church where people were isolated by rising floodwaters.

Even with a pickup truck, it is daunting to drive through waters dark and deep enough to obscure road signs. But experience covering storms and good waders enable you to cautiously measure water depth and current strength so you can get to compelling stories waiting to be told.

Ryan Nichols and David Rebollar have another way of getting to people and animals trapped by floods: a boat they haul from their Texas home to disaster zones. In the case of North Carolina, that was more than a thousand miles (1,600 km).

Having endured Hurricane Harvey, which hit Houston last year, the former Marines are on a mission to help when disaster strikes.

This day, as they lowered their craft into the water from a slice of dry land, a road was identifiable only by a few 7-foot-high street signs jutting above water. My colleague and I joined Nichols in the boat, and we made our way to the church about a thousand feet (300 meters) ahead.

Colonies of fire ants formed little islands floating beside toys. Desultory swing sets, as well as trees, gravestones and doleful statues, peered above the waterline.

While Nichols spoke with people at the church, we heard persistent barking at the back of a property across from it. He went to investigate and before long reappeared, saying urgently that “they” were trapped and we should hurry.

Abandoned dogs trapped in a cage, filling with rising floodwater, swim away after volunteer rescuer Ryan Nichols of Longview, Texas, freed them in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence, in Leland, North Carolina, U.S., September 16, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake

Abandoned dogs trapped in a cage, filling with rising floodwater, swim away after volunteer rescuer Ryan Nichols of Longview, Texas, freed them in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence, in Leland, North Carolina, U.S., September 16, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake

We moved through knee-high water until we saw three hounds in a caged doghouse – two on their hind legs, the other on all fours with its head just above water. They were trembling, terrified and desperate to get out.

Nichols tried to soothe the dogs as he worked to open the cage. When he did, not three but six dogs bounded out, half swimming, half bouncing through a stretch of water that led to nearby dry ground. I followed the action with my camera close to the water at their height.

A neighbor up the street found some dog food, which they devoured.

With more and more people in the vicinity needing help, the volunteers and local residents decided to leave a lot of food for the dogs and let them roam on the higher ground to which they now had access and to tell local authorities about them.

Volunteer rescuer Ryan Nichols of Longview, Texas, pets one of the dogs that were left caged by an owner who fled rising floodwater in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence in Leland, North Carolina, U.S., September 16, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake

Volunteer rescuer Ryan Nichols of Longview, Texas, pets one of the dogs that were left caged by an owner who fled rising floodwater in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence in Leland, North Carolina, U.S., September 16, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake

Floodwaters rose in the hours that followed, and only began receding the next day, when Nichols returned to check on the dogs. He encountered their owner, who said she had had to evacuate in haste with young children, and that someone sent to check on the dogs was refused entry to the area because of flooding.

 

(Reporting by Jonathan Drake; Editing by Toni Reinhold and Jonathan Oatis)

After Indonesian earthquake terror, hundreds trek down from volcano

Indonesian President Joko Widodo (C) talks to earthquake victims inside a makeshift tent at Madayin village in Lombok Timur, Indonesia, July 30, 2018. Antara Foto/Ahmad Subaidi/via REUTERS

By Agustinus Beo Da Costa and Fergus Jensen

JAKARTA (Reuters) – Nearly 700 trekkers headed down Mount Rinjani on Indonesia’s tourist island of Lombok on Monday, a day after a powerful earthquake of magnitude 6.4 terrified the climbers as boulders tumbled down the slopes of the volcano.

Officials said the death toll from Sunday’s earthquake, which was centered on the northern part of Lombok, but was also felt on the resort island of Bali to the west, stood at 16. More than 335 people were injured, many by collapsing buildings.

“I thought I was going to die,” said John Robyn Buenavista, a 23-year-old American, 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.”

The national park authority said on Monday that a key route to the peak of the 3,726-meter (12,224-foot) volcano had been cleared, and a helicopter was dropping supplies to others still picking their way to safety.

An estimated 689 people were still on Rinjani, said Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, a spokesman of the national disaster mitigation agency.

“Hundreds of trekkers in the crater in climbing areas couldn’t come down when they wanted to, because the paths were covered by debris from landslides and there were fears of subsequent landslides,” Sutopo told a news conference.

As many as 820 people – most of them foreigners – were on Mount Rinjani when the quake struck, making two trails impassable, Sutopo said on Twitter late on Sunday.

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.

Mount Rinjani National Park said in a Twitter message on Monday that a key route, Senaru, had been reopened for people to come down.

Authorities expected 500 trekkers to arrive at the foot of the mountain by 5 p.m, 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.

A villager walks through the ruins of a collapsed house during a search for the equipment of Malaysian tourists who died during the earthquake at the Sembalun Selong village in Lombok Timur, Indonesia, July 29, 2018. Antara Foto/Ahmad Subaidi/via REUTERS

A villager walks through the ruins of a collapsed house during a search for the equipment of Malaysian tourists who died during the earthquake at the Sembalun Selong village in Lombok Timur, Indonesia, July 29, 2018. Antara Foto/Ahmad Subaidi/via REUTERS

“DON’T DIE, DON’T DIE”

Trekkers typically take two days and a night to get to the crater rim of Rinjani and back down again, the national park says on itswebsite.

Buenavista, the U.S. tourist, said he was about to take some dawn photographs at the crater edge when the earthquake struck, and his immediate thought was that the volcano had erupted.

“I started running to the trail,” he told Reuters by telephone from the Gili Islands, off Lombok’s northwest coast, where he headed after a seven-hour trek to the foot of the peak.

“At one point, I saw people with half of their bodies stuck in the rocks and I just couldn’t move. I felt paralyzed and stopped moving. The guides were screaming, ‘Don’t die, don’t die.’ One of the guides had to shake me and take me by the hand. He told me

that I had to go, and that they would be okay.”

A magnitude 6.4 earthquake is considered strong and is capable of causing severe damage.

Indonesian and foreign climbers are seen after walking down from Rinjani Mountain at Sembalun village in Lombok Timur, Indonesia, July 29, 2018. Antara Foto/Ahmad Subaidi/via REUTERS

Indonesian and foreign climbers are seen after walking down from Rinjani Mountain at Sembalun village in Lombok Timur, Indonesia, July 29, 2018. Antara Foto/Ahmad Subaidi/via REUTERS

The Lombok quake struck at 6:47 a.m. (2247 GMT on Saturday) at a shallow depth of 4.35 miles (7 km) that amplified its effect. Officials said 280 aftershocks followed the initial quake.

Earthquakes are common in Indonesia, which is located on the seismically active “Ring of Fire” on the rim of the Pacific Ocean.

(Additional reporting by Fanny Potkin, Cindy Silviana, Zahra Matarani and Fransiska Nangoy; Writing by John Chalmers; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)