Lombok quake: Eyewitnesses describe panic, fear as thousands scramble onto open space

Residents spending the night on the town square in Mataram, on Aug 6, 2018, after a powerful earthquake struck Lombok.
Residents spending the night on the town square in Mataram, on Aug 6, 2018, after a powerful earthquake struck Lombok.PHOTO: AFP
Residents spending the night outdoors in Lombok's main city of Mataram, on Aug 6, 2018, after a powerful earthquake struck the island.
Residents spending the night outdoors in Lombok's main city of Mataram, on Aug 6, 2018, after a powerful earthquake struck the island. PHOTO: AFP

MATARAM, INDONESIA (AFP, REUTERS, NYTIMES, XINHUA) - Thousands of people scrambled from homes, hotels and restaurants as a strong 7.0-magnitude quake hit Lombok Island on Sunday (Aug 5).

"Everyone immediately ran out of their homes, everyone was panicking," said Mr Iman, who like many Indonesians has only one name.

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 out of houses, hotels and restaurants and onto the road.

"All the hotel guests were running, so I did too. People filled the streets," said Australian tourist Michelle Lindsay. "A lot of officials were urging people not to panic."

Another Australian, Ms Jodie Epper, was getting her son ready for bed when the quake hit.

"We went out into the yard, the ground was still shaking very badly," she told ABC News. "Lots of people screaming and lots of the sounds of the roofs falling in and the walls collapsing and general chaos."

 
 

Ms Epper was volunteering in Lombok with her husband and son as part of the Australian Volunteers Programme, an initiative of the Australian government that offers opportunities for Australians to contribute to aid objectives.

Ms Epper told ABC News that she saw a few elderly women who were injured by falling rocks being carried away. And when the tsunami alert was triggered, everyone rushed to get to the top of a hill, she added.

Other witnesses said the initial quake grew in intensity over several seconds, rattling windows and doors, and there were many aftershocks.

“I was at the rooftop of my hotel and the building started swaying very hard. It felt like two metres to the left, then two metres to the right. I could not stand up,” said Mr Gino Poggiali, a 43-year-old Frenchman, who was with his wife and two children.

His wife Maude, 44, said the family were on Bali for the first quake and Lombok for the second.

Dutch tourist Marc Ganbuwalba injured his knee when a stampede of diners rushed from a restaurant after the quake.

“We are cutting short our holiday because I can’t walk and we’re just not in the mood anymore, more in the mood to see our loved ones,” said the 26-year-old, sitting on a trolley at the airport with his leg bandaged.

“We are just thankful to god and also to the hotel staff who really helped us. Some of them said their own houses had been destroyed but they were still helping us.”

The popular Indonesian resort island of Lombok, already under a weeklong state of emergency, was struck once again on Sunday (Aug 5) by a powerful 7.0-magnitude earthquake.

At least 89 people in Lombok and two in Bali were killed in the quake, said the country's National Disaster Mitigation Agency.

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.

"Most of the victims were hit by debris and falling blocks of concrete," said the National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho.

The 7.0-magnitude quake struck at 6.46pm local time (7.46pm Singapore time). Minutes later, a 5.6-magnitude aftershock jolted the region again. It was the first of a wave of about a dozen aftershocks.

By far, a total of 47 aftershocks followed the 7.0-magnitude shock with the epicentre at 18km north-west of Lombok Timur district and shallow of 15km under-earth, said Mr Yusuf Khaidar Ali, an official at the meteorology and geophysics agency.

On July 29, Lombok Island was struck by a shallow 6.4-magnitude quake, leaving 17 people dead, 365 others injured and 8,871 people displaced as the jolts destroyed 14,940 houses, according to the disaster agency.

That quake triggered landslides that briefly trapped trekkers on popular mountain hiking routes.

Indonesia 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 9.3-magnitude 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.