Rebuilding mosques priority for devout on quake-hit Lombok

TANJUNG, Indonesia — On Indonesia's earthquake-devastated Lombok island, people are reeling as they mourn more than 300 dead and sleep in makeshift shelters, but foremost in the minds of some is rebuilding the collapsed mosques that were the heart of their communities.

Dozens of villagers in Tanjung district prayed in a field Friday in front of their former mosque and made plans for a replacement.

"We are very sad because our mosque we loved very much is now destroyed," said Sunarto, a worshipper, holding back tears. "Our imam, who is our leader, also died in the mosque."

The magnitude 7.0 quake on Sunday killed at least 321 people and damaged or destroyed nearly 68,000 homes. Some 270,000 people are homeless or otherwise displaced.

It also upended daily religious life, with 15 mosques collapsing and 50 musholla or prayer rooms damaged.

Like most of Indonesia, Lombok is majority Muslim. A minority on the island practice Hinduism, a legacy of its historical domination by Hindu Balinese kingdoms.

Sunarto, who uses one name, said hearing the call to prayer and being observant will help villagers rebuild from the disaster.

"Our mission in our meeting with villagers is to talk about how we are going to build a temporary mosque so that the voice of Quranic verse will continue to reverberate in our village," he said.

Lombok was hit by three big quakes in little more than a week. A magnitude 5.9 aftershock on Thursday injured more than two dozen people, damaged buildings and caused a landslide that buried four people. On July 29, the first of the quakes killed 16 people.

A field hospital in Tanjung, one of the hard-hit districts in north Lombok, was still treating patients Friday because hospitals are damaged or overwhelmed.

Medic Ainun Kharima said head injuries caused by collapsing buildings were a big cause of deaths.

"Many patients here have broken bones and we handle it as much as possible because the hospital is damaged, impossible to do surgery and treat patients with severe injuries," she said.

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.

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