Earthquake swarm jolts Indonesian islands, killing at least 12

Multiple strong earthquakes killed at least 12 people on the Indonesian islands of Lombok and Sumbawa as the region was trying to recover from a temblor earlier this month that killed hundreds of people.

Authorities urging people to avoid mountain slopes and weakened buildings

Patients and their family members stay at a makeshift hospital ward in Mataram on Indonesia's Lombok island on Sunday. (AFP/Getty Images)

Multiple strong earthquakes killed at least 12 people on the Indonesian islands of Lombok and Sumbawa as the region was trying to recover from a temblor earlier this month that killed hundreds of people.

A shallow magnitude 6.9 quake that hit about 10 p.m. local time was one of several powerful earthquakes Sunday in the northeast of Lombok that also caused landslides. The nighttime quake was followed by strong aftershocks.

At least 10 people on Lombok and neighbouring Sumbawa island were killed by collapsing buildings or heart attacks, National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesperson Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said Monday. Two people died earlier Sunday on Lombok during a magnitude 6.3 quake.

More than 1,800 houses were damaged, at least half of them severely, he said.

'People panicked and scattered'

The swarm of quakes caused panic in Sembalun subdistrict on Lombok in the shadow of Mount Rinjani, but many people were already staying in tents following the deadly jolt in early August and its hundreds of aftershocks. On Sumbawa, a neighbourhood was engulfed by a fire that started in a collapsed house.

"People panicked and scattered," Nugroho said. "Some people are hysterical because they feel earthquake aftershocks that are harder than before. They heard a roar that probably came from landslides in the hills and Mount Rinjani."

Several strong earthquakes hit island in Indonesia as the area tries to recover from earthquakes that hit earlier this month 0:49

Dwikorita Karnawatim, who heads Indonesia's Meteorology and Geophysics Agency, said buildings that haven't collapsed so far have suffered repeated stress, and authorities have urged people to avoid both the mountain's slopes and weakened buildings.

Sunday night's tremor occurred on a different fault and was not an aftershock of the magnitude 7.0 quake on Aug. 5 that killed 460 people, damaged tens of thousands of homes and displaced several hundred thousand people.

Quakes caused landslides

The quake lasting five to 10 seconds also was felt in the neighbouring island of Bali and as far away as East Java and Makassar in Sulawesi.

Quakes earlier Sunday caused landslides on Rinjani, an active volcano. Video shot by the Indonesian Red Cross showed huge clouds of dust billowing from the mountain's slopes.

People drive by collapsed houses in northern Lombok on Aug. 10, five days after a major quake struck. Three more quakes struck on Sunday. (Adi Weda/EPA-EFE)

Rinjani has been closed to visitors following a July earthquake that killed 16 people, triggered landslides and stranded hundreds of tourists on the mountain.

Indonesia, a sprawling archipelago that straddles the Pacific "Ring of Fire," is prone to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.