Lombok earthquake

Shanmugam recounts the night tragedy struck

Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam spent the night at the airport while waiting for a flight out of Lombok.
Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam spent the night at the airport while waiting for a flight out of Lombok.

When Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam's hotel room started shaking, he decided to get out of the room because he was not sure if the building would hold up.

"It was shaking very violently and I could tell this wasn't a building that, I think, was designed to withstand these sorts of events," he told reporters yesterday afternoon, about an hour after he landed in Singapore from Lombok.

"The general rule is that in earthquakes you don't stand up, you don't run, you go and find a sturdy piece of furniture and go under. But I thought, given the way the building was behaving, maybe it is better that I try and leave," he said. It was his first time experiencing an earthquake.

Mr Shanmugam had arrived in Mataram, Lombok, on Sunday morning with an 11-member Singapore delegation for a sub-regional counter-terrorism meeting co-hosted by Indonesia and Australia.

That evening, a magnitude-7 earthquake hit the Indonesian resort island at 6.46pm local time (7.46pm Singapore time).

Nearly 100 people have been killed in the disaster. No Singaporeans have been reported to be injured so far, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA).

Mr Shanmugam said he was working on his laptop in his hotel room on the 10th floor when the room suddenly shook violently at about 8pm.

In a Facebook update yesterday, the minister said the delegation was able to grab only the most essential items from their hotel rooms before evacuating.

He said he took with him his laptop with go-vernment e-mails, adding that they were able to get more items out of the hotel only yester-day morning.

He also shared photos of the bathroom in his hotel room, showing wall tiles that had come loose. Other photos, which he took after he returned to the hotel, showed buildings with cracks and shattered glass on the street.

In a separate post on Sunday evening, he said that the group had waited by the roadside before heading to another hotel, which was low-rise and had three floors. However, as they arrived there, "people were running out", he added.

 
 
 

Eventually, they went to the airport, where they waited at a single-storey police post nearby. Mr Shanmugam said he spent the night there while waiting for a flight out of Lombok.

"The police officers there were kind," he added, though the airport was chaotic and packed with a lot of people.

He said that while the Singapore delegation was safe, there were casualties among other guests.

He said MFA is "trying to get (Singaporeans) on to commercial flights and get them out" of Lombok.

His delegation has left Lombok. "The Indonesians provided transport, some of us left on commercial flights as well," he said.

The quake, which struck at a depth of 15km off the northern coast of Lombok, prompted a tsunami warning which was later lifted at 8.25pm local time.

Telecommunications networks and electricity were disrupted, and several bridges and many buildings, including hospitals, were damaged. Official estimates of material losses from the damage could exceed one trillion rupiah (S$94.4 million).

Mr Shanmugam said the earthquake is a "tragedy for the people of Indonesia, the people of Lombok", and that "our thoughts and prayers are with them".

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 07, 2018, with the headline 'Shanmugam recounts the night tragedy struck'. Print Edition | Subscribe