Earthquake Rattles Lombok, Gili Islands, Bali

A deadly 6.9-magnitude earthquake shook the island of Gili Trawangan, off Lombok in Indonesia, last Sunday.

The death toll from the earthquake that rocked the Indonesian island of Lombok a week ago has passed 400 and the government is estimating economic losses of at least several hundred million dollars. The national disaster agency said Monday the August 5 quake killed 436 people, most of whom died in collapsing buildings.

It said damage to homes, infrastructure and other property is at least 5 trillion rupiah ($342 million), calling that a temporary figure that will rise as more assessments are made. The agency said rebuilding will cost hundreds of millions of dollars.

The magnitude 7.0 quake flattened thousands of homes and according to the disaster agency’s latest estimate has displaced about 350,000 people.

“It was unbelievable, crashing sounds, rumblings of the earth, falling tiles, smashing glass, spraying water, people screaming – absolutely terrifying,” the American, who runs a dive resort, wrote in a diary she has kept of the disaster.

On nearby Gili Meno, Andi Darmin huddled on the roof of his bungalow with his guests, including a couple and their eight-month-old baby. “Can you get a helicopter?” one of the European guests asked him. “I will pay whatever it costs.”

The earthquake, which centered on northern Lombok, left at least 430 people dead, 1,033 seriously injured and 270,000 people displaced from their homes. Indonesia’s disaster and rescue agencies expect the death toll to rise further. Satellite imagery shows that in North Lombok 75 percent of settlements were destroyed.

Although they escaped the worst of the disaster, the Gilis – three idyllic islands popular with divers, party lovers and honeymooners – were plunged into emergency mode.

On Gili Air, a western doctor and a few English nurses on holiday banded together to erect a makeshift medical tent in a field to treat the wounded, and instructed expats to collect painkillers and other supplies from tourists.

On Gili Trawangan, the biggest of the three islands, where at least eight people died, doctors, dive instructors and tourists set up a basic camp with oxygen and medical supplies and organized people into groups from minor injuries to the most severe.

The bodies of the dead were laid out on the beach on sarongs before they were taken away to be cleaned for burial. Many people camped out overnight, too afraid to sleep indoors.

Thousands of panicked tourists left the islands the following day, in some cases scrambling over each other to get a seat on one of the boats. Most headed straight for the international airport, where some slept on the floor as they waited for a flight out.

The exodus leaves the mostly western-run tourist businesses facing an uncertain future.

“When I look to the right there is no one, when I look to the left there is no one, just hundreds of bikes dumped at the port,” said Sander Buis, the Dutch owner of Oceans 5 Dive on Gili Air.

He estimated that about 70 percent of resorts on Air had been damaged, and many homes owned by Indonesians in the center of the island destroyed.

“Some resorts are not in good shape. Others have no damage at all.”

On Gili Trawangan about 30 percent of buildings have been destroyed and another 40 percent damaged. Authorities estimate that the cost of the damage across the Gilis and Lombok could easily exceed 1 trillion rupiah.

On Friday there was no running water on Gili Trawangan or Air, though there were plenty of supplies – in contrast to the more serious situation on the worse-hit main island of Lombok. Before electricity was reconnected, the owners on Air were clearing out all the island’s fridges and giving away the meat to local residents, who are sending it to their families in the north.

Horses used to pull carts on the car-free island of Trawangan were being rounded up after running loose, and taken to the mainland. After reports of looting on Trawangan – there are no police on the Gili islands and it took days for the military to arrive – the security situation was improving.

As aftershocks continue – there had been more than 450 by Friday – tourists are likely to stay clear of Lombok and the Gilis for now.

Buis said he hoped things would start to feel more normal within six weeks. “Some resorts are not that damaged at all and some are,” he said. “So it is all about when the tourists are ready to come back.”

The Red Cross said it was focusing relief efforts on an estimated 20,000 people who are yet to receive any assistance.

Of course, Indonesia is part of the ring of fire, a seismically active part of the world, which spurs active volcanoes and frequent earthquakes. Indonesia is the fourth-largest nation in the world with more than 267 million people. The country is comprised of more than 17,500 islands, including Bali, Borneo, Java, Lombok, Sumatra and Sulawesi. Learn more about Indonesia.

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