The seven-magnitude tremor, which triggered panic among tourists and locals on Sunday evening, was also felt on the neighbouring island of Bali, one of Southeast Asia’s leading tourist destinations.
Nugroho said an initial tsunami warning which was later cancelled had sparked terror as residents scrambled to reach safer ground.
“People were panicking … especially because of the early tsunami warning,” he said.
Most of the victims died in northern Lombok, far from the main tourist spots on the south and west of the island.
Rescue officials said much of the damage had hit Lombok’s main city of Mataram.
Residents of the city described a strong jolt that sent people scrambling to get out of buildings.
“Everyone immediately ran out of their homes, everyone is panicking,” Iman, who like many Indonesians has one name, told AFP.
Electricity was knocked out in several parts of the city and patients were evacuated from the main hospital, witnesses and officials said.
In the neighbouring resort island of Bali people could be heard screaming as locals and tourists ran onto the road.
The tremor came a week after a shallow 6.4-magnitude quake hit Lombok, killing 17 people and damaging hundreds of buildings.
It triggered landslides that briefly trapped trekkers on popular mountain hiking routes.
Indonesia, one of the most disaster-prone nations on earth, straddles the so-called Pacific “Ring of Fire”, where tectonic plates collide and many of the world’s volcanic eruptions and earthquakes occur.
In 2004 a tsunami triggered by a magnitude 9.3 undersea earthquake off the coast of Sumatra in western Indonesia killed 220,000 people in countries around the Indian Ocean, including 168,000 in Indonesia.