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All Irish tourists taken off earthquake-stricken Gili Islands, ambassador says

Rescuers today resumed the search for survivors, and to recover the bodies of victims.

Visitors evacuate from Gili Trawangan near Lombok Island in Central Indonesia
Visitors evacuate from Gili Trawangan near Lombok Island in Central Indonesia
Image: Xinhua News Agency/PA Images

Updated Aug 7th 2018, 9:43 AM

ALL IRISH TOURISTS who wish to be have been taken off the Gili Islands, three tiny, tropical islands that lie off the northwest coast of Lombok, after it suffered a second deadly quake within a week, according to the Irish ambassador.

The shallow 6.9-magnitude quake killed at least 98 people and destroyed thousands of buildings in Lombok on Sunday, just days after another deadly tremor surged through the holiday island and killed 17.

Rescuers today resumed the search for survivors, and to recover the bodies of victims in the rubble of houses, mosques and schools destroyed in the latest disaster.

More than 20,000 people are believed to have been made homeless on Lombok, with 236 severely injured, and authorities have appealed for more medical personnel and basic supplies.

Emergency crews were today working through the wreckage of a collapsed mosque in the northern village of Lading-Lading, where authorities fear a number of people are trapped.

At least one body has been recovered from the rubble of the mosque, which was reduced to a pile of concrete and metal bars, with its towering green dome folded in on itself.

Indonesia Earthquake Houses damaged by earthquake are seen in North Lombok, Indonesia Source: Sidik Hutomo via PA Images

Some 4,600 tourists have been evacuated from the Gili Islands, three tiny, coral-fringed tropical islands that lie off the northwest coast of Lombok and are popular with backpackers and divers.

Hundreds crowded onto its powder-white beaches yesterday, desperately awaiting transport off the normally paradise destination. Seven Indonesian holidaymakers died on the largest of the three, Gili Trawangan.

Speaking to RTÉ Radio One’s Morning Ireland, Irish Ambassador to Indonesia Kyle O’Sullivan said that they were aware of about 50 Irish people who were on the Gili Islands on Sunday night when the earthquake struck.

In addition, he said there were another 50 or 60 Irish people in the region and in Bali.

“Of the Irish who were caught up, about 30 got out on Sunday night late or early on Monday morning, but another 25 were stuck there. These were the ones who were stuck on that beach for up to 36 hours in some cases,” O’Sullivan said.

“They were mostly taken off late last night or early this morning, so we’ve been going through our lists and as far as we can tell all the Irish are off the Gili Islands,” he said.

The Irish who have been taken off the Gili Islands have mostly been taken to Bali, where O’Sullivan said there are plenty of slights available. Some others are still at Lombok Airport, accompanied by two Irish Embassy workers.

“They’re waiting on flights. The flights may take a day or two for seats to become available but local authorities said they will put on extra flights if necessary,” O’Sullivan said.

In relation to families in Ireland being about to contact those abroad, he added: “This is one of the new things about this crisis. There was no electricity, no transport, but many people’s mobile phones worked very well. You had people on the beach who could phone out, but would couldn’t get access to water or power or shelter.

“In many cases, they were in contact directly with families.”

Stranded

Hundreds of weary tourists continued to arrive with their baggage at Bangsal harbour, the main link between Lombok and the Gilis, today.

Some said they felt stranded and complained about a lack of coordination and affordable transport to the tourist hub of Senggigi or Lombok’s airport, where dozens slept on the floor overnight awaiting flights out.

“There’s a massive rush of people wanting to get out of Lombok because of unfounded rumours, such as of a tsunami,” Muhammad Faozal, the head of the tourism agency in West Nusa Tenggara province, told AFP.

“We can help tourists to get to the airport but of course we can’t buy them tickets for free,” he said, adding that authorities were providing free accommodation, food and transport to those in need.

Indonesia Earthquake Foreign tourists sleep on the floor as they are stranded at Lombok International Airport Source: Niniek Karmini via PA Images

As O’Sullivan noted, Lombok airport’s general manager said airlines had been laying on extra flights since yesterday and that his staff had been providing stranded passengers with blankets and snacks.

“We have been doing our best to manage the tourists flocking the airport,” he told AFP.

“We are doing our best so we can fly out as many as possible.”

Immigration authorities said that seven foreigners – from Belgium, Britain, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, South Korea and the United States – were injured in the quake and are being treated in hospital.

Speaking of the Irish, O’Sullivan said: “It is so far remarkable that there have been no foreigners amongst the dead or even the seriously injured.

Amongst the Irish, we’re looking at people with sunburn, exhaustion and cuts and grazes, but no serious injuries.

“Many, many Indonesians have lost their lives in this and I’m afraid as the rescue and recovery operation goes on they’re likely to discover that more casualties have taken place.”

Survivors cut off

Sunday’s shallow tremor sent thousands of residents and tourists scrambling outdoors in Lombok, where many spent the night as strong aftershocks including one of 5.3-magnitude rattled the island.

The quake knocked out power in many areas and parts of the island and remained without electricity today.

Indonesia Earthquake An Indonesian man inspect houses damaged by earthquake in Kayangan on Lombok Island Source: Fauzy Chaniago via PA Images

A lack of heavy equipment and shattered roads have hampered efforts to reach survivors in the mountainous north and east of the island, which had been hardest hit.

Najmul Akhyar, the head of North Lombok district, estimated that 80% of that region was damaged by the quake.

Hundreds of bloodied and bandaged victims have been treated outside damaged hospitals in the main city of Mataram and other badly affected areas.

Indonesia, one of the world’s most disaster-prone nations, straddles the so-called Pacific “Ring of Fire”, where tectonic plates collide and many of the world’s volcanic eruptions and earthquakes occur.

“Indonesia is in the Ring of Fire and they have a significant number of earthquakes every year. The authorities here and local people are quite used to this, they move quite quickly and they know what they’re doing,” O’Sullivan said.

“The difficulty in Lombok is it’s an island in eastern Indonesia, there isn’t a lot of heavy equipment, they’re working by hand, mostly. Transport is very, very difficult because some of the roads are blocked,” he said.

In 2014, a devastating 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.

with reporting by - © AFP, 2018

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