MATARAM (Indonesia) • Terrified holidaymakers rushed for planes and boats to leave Indonesia's Lombok and Gili islands yesterday, fearing further earthquakes.
Officials said that about 4,600 foreign and domestic tourists have been evacuated by boat from the three Gili islands off the north-west coast of Lombok where fears of a tsunami spread soon after the quake on Sunday night.
The three tiny, coral-fringed tropical islands in West Nusa Tenggara province are popular with backpackers and divers.
Around 400 remained on those islands as of yesterday afternoon, according to commander of the provincial navy base Ludi Mihardjo.
Hundreds crowded onto the powder-white beaches on Monday, desperately awaiting transport off the islands.
Two holidaymakers died on the largest of the three, Gili Trawangan, where buildings suffered extensive damage.
Tourist Margret Helgadottir from Iceland described people screaming as the roof of her hotel on one of the islands collapsed after the quake hit.
"We just froze; thankfully we were outside," she said at a harbour in Lombok to where she had been evacuated. "Everything went black, it was terrible."
Hundreds of weary tourists continued to arrive with their baggage yesterday at Bangsal Port in north-western Lombok, the main link between the main island and the Gilis.
The Indonesian authorities said that they are providing shuttle buses to transport travellers from Bangsal Port to the province's capital of Mataram.
But some tourists said they felt stranded, and complained about a lack of coordination and affordable transport to the tourist hub of Senggigi, located to the north of Mataram, or to Lombok's airport, where dozens slept on the floor overnight awaiting flights out.
"There was a massive rush of people wanting to get out of Lombok because of unfounded rumours, such as of a tsunami," said Mr Muhammad Faozal, head of the tourism agency in West Nusa Tenggara.
"We can help tourists to get to the airport but of course we can't buy them tickets for free," he said, adding that the authorities were providing free accommodation, food and transport to those in need.
Lombok International Airport's general manager I Gusti Ngurah Ardita said airlines had been laying on extra flights since Monday, and that his staff had been providing stranded passengers with blankets and snacks. The airport will operate all day until tomorrow to cater to the additional flights.
Mr Handy Heryudhitiawan, corporate secretary of state-owned airport operator Angkasa Pura I, which runs Lombok International Airport, told The Straits Times that 59 regular flights took off yesterday, while a total of five extra flights heading to Jakarta, Surabaya and Denpasar were added.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, XINHUA
• Additional reporting by Linda Yulisman