Some 300 Thai nationals have been rescued from an Indonesian volcanic mountain after a powerful earthquake hit the area on Sunday, and are scheduled to return home today, said the Thai Ambassador to Jakarta yesterday.
Songphol Sukchan was speaking on Lombok island while waiting for the Thais to descend from Mount Rinjano, an active volcano.
A 6.4-magnitude quake hit the island on Sunday, killing at least 14, including a Malaysian.
Indonesia has mounted urgent operations to rescue more some 500 hikers, mostly from Thailand.
Helicopters and search teams have been deployed to scour the slopes of Mount Rinjani, which is criss-crossed with hiking routes popular with tourists, while rescuers have made airdrops of food supplies to those stranded.
Thai Foreign Ministry earlier yesterday reported that at least 174 Thai hikers had already arrived at the foot of the mountain and a hundred others were following.
Data showed that 265 Thais have registered their entry to the Rinjani National Park since July 27.
The island has been a paradise for hikers eager to experience the active volcano and its crater. as well as other tourist attractions on the Indonesian island.
Rising some 3,726 metres above sea level, Rinjani is the second-highest volcano in Indonesia and a favourite among sightseers keen to take in its expansive views.
The Thai ambassador and the Thai military attache yesterday arrived at the Sembalun Lawang gathering point in Lombok.
The Thai Embassy provided the rescued with food, drinking water, medicine and accommodation, as well as a power bank.
The incident came to light when Thai hikers used social network platforms including Facebook to alert authorities about their plight. They wrote they could not descend from Rinjani because the quake had caused rockslides and landslides that blocked their paths.
They recorded and posted videos to their Facebook pages, showing rocks falling from the mountain during a series of aftershocks.
They asked the readers of their posts to alert the Thai Embassy in Jakarta to their ordeal.
One of the affected, Thai Nupa Wan, posted a Facebook message seeking help. Nupa wrote that everybody in the group was safe but they could not descend the volcano because their paths were blocked by landslides and rocks from the impact of the earthquake.
“We have set up tents on the hill here to await Indonesian rescue workers. We have enough food and water probably until tomorrow [today] morning. It’s an eight-hour trek back to where we came from,” one group member said.
Several groups of tourists from Thailand arrived in Lombok on Friday to spend the long weekend on the famous trek to the volcanoes and lakes on the Indonesian island.
“The morale remains high. We are mostly young men and women who have joined this trek for the excitement and adventure,” said a group member.
Thai national Thanapon Worawutchainan, who was at the summit when the earthquake struck, posted a video on Facebook showing people stumbling down the slopes in the aftermath.
He said the ground shook violently and people lay down until the tremors stopped.
Another stranded Thai, Funknathee Prapasawat, said on Facebook, “It looked like the mountain in front of me was going to collapse. Some people were injured by rocks falling off the mountain.”