(Photo: AFP)

The damage in northern Lombok was “massive”, a spokesman for the National Disaster Mitigation Agency said. In several districts, more than half the homes were destroyed or severely damaged.

The earthquake struck just 10 km underground, according to the US Geological Survey, and was followed by a series of strong aftershocks, prompting many to spend the night outside.

Almost 1,000 tourists were being evacuated from Indonesia’s tiny Gili Islands, where the damage was extensive.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo expressed “deep sorrow for our brothers” and pledged to rebuild buildings damaged in the disaster, noting that emergency teams were still surveying the full extent of the damage.

It was the second deadly quake in a week to hit Lombok. Earlier, another earthquake measuring 6.4 on the Richter scale killed 17 people and briefly stranding hundreds of hikers on the slopes of a volcano.

Indonesia is prone to earthquakes because of its location on the Pacific "Ring of Fire," an arc of volcanoes and fault lines in the Pacific Basin. In December 2004, a massive magnitude 9.3 earthquake off Sumatra Island triggered a tsunami that killed 220,000 people in a dozen countries, including 168,000 people in Indonesia./.

Compiled by BTA