Catholic hospitals in Indonesia have sent medical teams to treat hundreds of people injured by a 6.9-magnitude earthquake that struck the tourist island of Lombok near Bali in West Nusa Tenggara province on Aug. 5. The death toll stood at 105 by mid-afternoon on Aug. 7 with 236 injured but officials expected the body count to rise as Muslims were yet to be pulled from a mosque that collapsed while they were praying inside it. Officials said most of the casualties were caused by falling rubble as properties collapsed. There were no reported foreigners among the dead but some media reports claimed several fatalities in the neighboring Gili Islands. Thousands of buildings were damaged and several thousand people were forced to flee their homes, according to the National Disaster Mitigation Agency. In the Gili Islands, a paradisiacal archipelago popular with backpackers, an estimated 2,000 or more people were being evacuated after spending a nerve-wracking night camped on top of a mountain. "Medical workers are really needed right now to treat the victims," Sister Paulina from the Congregation of Missionary Sisters Servants of the Holy Spirit told ucanews.com on Aug. 7. Speaking in her capacity as a spokeswoman of St. Anthony Catholic Hospital in the provincial capital of Mataram, she said the hospital had treated over a dozen victims so far. "We placed them in the hospital's parking area as the situation was unpredictable, aftershocks continued to happen. This morning we took them to the hospital's treatment rooms," the nun said. More than 176 aftershocks were recorded following the quake. Sister Paulina said the hospital has sent a team of nurses to the main government-run hospital in the province to provide further assistance and make sure those seeking refuge have temporary shelter. "Many volunteers have contacted me and asked if we need any help. I told them that medical teams are what I need the most. I need orthopedics and neurologists," she said. The Catholic hospital is working with St. Vincentius A Paulo Catholic Hospital in Surabaya, East Java province, she added. Dr. Agung Kurniawan Saputra, who works at the Surabaya hospital, said it dispatched three nurses to St. Anthony Catholic Hospital a day after the quake and they will remain in Lombok for at least a week. "This morning we sent [another] doctor and a nurse," he told ucanews.com. "If possible, they will go to those areas affected by the quake in cooperation with local authorities from today."
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The situation was being hampered by logistical headaches as the quake has damaged transport links in the area, he added. Dr. Felix Gunawan, director of the Jakarta-based Association of Voluntary Health Services of Indonesia, said his agency is supplying medicines as some are at risk of running out of stock. "We have prepared medicines for the victims and we will distribute them via St. Anthony's," he said, adding the hospital is a member of a broader Catholic network. The Ministry of Health has sent 87 medical workers to the worst hit areas of Mataram as well as the districts of North Lombok and East Lombok. Ministry officials said most of the victims suffered from head trauma and open fractures.