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'Everyone was screaming... it was so scary': Irish woman caught up in Indonesia earthquake

Teacher Colleen Garry is travelling in Indonesia for six weeks and told us what it was like to get caught up in the quake.

FB_IMG_1533567404468 Teacher Colleen Garry Source: Colleen Garry

AN IRISH PRIMARY school teacher has told TheJournal.ie of the terror of getting caught up in the Indonesian earthquake, after it struck the island she was staying on.

The earthquake struck Lombok Island yesterday, a week after a previous earthquake killed 17 people. Almost 100 people have been pronounced dead after yesterday’s quake.

Colleen Garry is teaching in Dublin but from Limerick. She decided to travel to Indonesia for six weeks on her summer holiday, and flew into Lombok as she was due to go to the Gili Islands.

“I was due to meet my friend and another Irish girl on Thursday in Gilis to spend the weekend there,” she said.

“I had some time to spare so decided to go to South Lombok for a few days. I had been in Senggigi in the North and luckily left the morning of the earthquake. I was in Kuta Lombok when it happened.”

She had been suffering with a sinus infection and was resting most of the day, but at around 7.30pm local time she decided to go for dinner. That was when the earthquake struck.

“I was walking down the road when literally the earth shook. I ran into the middle of the road away from street lamps and trees, which were violently shaking,” she said.

Everyone was screaming and ran out from the restaurants. It was so scary. Then it stopped and for a moment everything was calm and locals came out of the mosque and said everything was OK. So I continued to walk towards the beach when all of a sudden dozens of motorbikes started flying past me.
People were running and shouting ‘tsunami’. I was terrified and started sprinting. I’ve never felt fear like that before. All I kept thinking was ‘I don’t want to die alone’. I was running beside two [German] girls and asked could I stay with them as I didn’t want to be on my own. We decided to try flag down some transport.

Garry said that there was “a horrible atmosphere of panic and everyone heading for the hills”.

Indonesia Earthquake Motorists ride past houses heavily damaged by an earthquake in North Lombok, Indonesia Source: AP/PA Images

Eventually a car stopped which contained a local man and woman with their little girl. “We jumped into the car and the little girl sat on my lap and was shrieking and holding onto me for dear life,” said Garry. “It was then I burst into tears and decided I should contact my parents. The local man stopped at a point and said we should wait but we wanted him to go further.”

The two girls that Garry was with had access to mobile data, so they were able to see that the earthquake’s epicentre was further north. But they also discovered that there was a tsunami warning.

“It was the not knowing that was so awful,” said Garry. “One minute everyone was calm saying the tsunami shouldn’t hit where we were, the next minute locals said the tide went out and if afraid of water to go higher. So we walked further up the hill.”

They waited three hours on the hill to be safe, but then headed into town with other people. “No-one wanted to go to sleep so we found a bar where a lot of people had gathered and some local guy was playing guitar,” she said. “There was a real sense of community. A lot of people were hungry especially myself and the German girls. A local cafe was giving out vegetables and potatoes. We were very grateful.”

Eventually, exhausted after all that had happened, they returned home to their homestays. “The owner here stayed up all night and said the mountain was behind us so if we need to go just grab your passport and run,” said Garry.

This morning, they felt the aftershocks on the island. “A lot of places were collecting donations and holding fundraisers,” said the Irish woman. “Luckily there was not too much damage here but there is further North.”

She has decided not to go to the Gili Islands, as this is where tourists are being evacuated from. “Most flights are full or 26 hours with loads of stopovers,” she said. “So tomorrow first thing I’m going to get a slow boat back to Bali (the fast ferries aren’t running) – this journey can take up to six hours.”

INDONESIA-GILI TRAWANGAN-LOMBOK ISLAND-EARTHQUAKE Damaged houses on Gili Trawangan. Source: Xinhua News Agency/PA Images

Garry is prepared for a long day of travel, and said she hopes there will not be further quakes during her stay. However, her landlady told her that locals are very worried because the earthquakes are becoming more frequent and stronger.

The clean-up and recovery operation is underway after the quake, with 2,000 tourists being evacuated from the affected areas. Hundreds of victims were being treated outside damaged hospitals in the main city Mataram and other hard-hit parts of the island.

Indonesia is located across the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire, where tectonic plates collide and lead to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

Oxfam, one of the charities providing help in the affected areas, said that:

Over 20,000 people are in temporary shelters while thousands more are under open skies in need of drinking water, food, medical supplies, and clothes. Clean drinking water is scarce due to the extremely dry weather conditions leading up the disaster.

In its advice for travellers, the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade says:

Those travelling on the island and the north and eastern coasts and the Rinjani region in particular, should contact loved ones at home to confirm their safety, remain vigilant and follow the advice of local authorities dealing with the situation.

Its travel tips can be read here.

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