The Indonesian island of Lombok was shaken by a third big earthquake in little more than a week Thursday. The strong aftershock, measured at magnitude 5.9 by the US Geological Survey, caused panic and damage. It was centered in the northwest of the island and didn't have the potential to cause a tsunami, per Indonesia's geological agency. Grieving relatives were burying their dead, and medics tended to people whose broken limbs hadn't yet been treated since Sunday's quake. Several agencies have been releasing higher death toll figures than the 131 announced on Wednesday by the National Disaster Mitigation Agency, which says it hasn't verified these other figures but expects the toll to climb. The chief of the provincial search and rescue agency covering Lombok tells the AP the death toll from Sunday's magnitude 7.0 quake is now 227. A July 29 quake on Lombok killed 16.
Thousands of homes were damaged or destroyed in Sunday's quake, and more than 150,000 people are homeless. The earlier earthquakes also left cracks in walls and roofs, making the weakened buildings susceptible to collapse. The Indonesian Red Cross said it's focusing its relief efforts on an estimated 20,000 people in remote areas in the island's north, where aid still has not reached. A spokesman says people need clean water and tarpaulins most of all. In Kopang Daya, injured villagers got their first proper treatment Thursday after medics arrived with a portable X-ray and other supplies. Indonesia is prone to earthquakes because of its location on the "Ring of Fire," an arc of volcanoes and fault lines in the Pacific Basin. In December 2004, a massive magnitude 9.1 earthquake off Sumatra triggered a tsunami that killed 230,000 people in a dozen countries.