My name is Peter Van Roey, born in the year when the first man walked on the moon in a Belgian village called Brasschaat, close to Antwerp. Belgian dad and Sumatran mom. My story is so similar like the other Indos in the previous months but I like to share my experience what happened on Lombok Island, Indonesia when I was there during the horrible 7.0 earthquake…
Here we are, Paradise on Earth, Gili Meno a tiny coral island. No roads, no motorized transportation, no streaming water and as flat as a pancake. It’s really Paradise on Earth!
Seri Resort, the most beautiful resort on the island, 4 stars, with all the luxury you could wish for.
We have dinner at 7PM, on the 2nd floor of this beautiful open beach building. A few people are sitting on the 3rd floor of this building.
We order pineapple lassi and a delicious fresh juice. As a starter we order yummy Bruschetta and right after finishing our starter we feel an instant light vibration, all employees run away without saying a word! This doesn’t feel good. Than the building starts to shake heavy, people panicking, we’re losing power, we experience literally a blackout.
You’re running but you don’t know and see where you’re running to. The sound of breaking glass, ceilings falling, furniture falling over.
We need to go down a concrete staircase it’s almost impossible to stand straight and go down the stairs because of the heavy shocks of the earthquake.
The concrete pillars are snapping and that sound is telling us we need to get out ASAP! We’re walking down the stairs not counting the steps we’re missing, the pool is losing its water because of the shakedown.
People are in full panic mode and jumping into the pool, which is a very bad idea because if the building will collapse it will collapse right onto the pool.
It’s not an option to go back to the hotel.
In the meantime a local guy have read on the internet that there’s indeed an active Tsunami warning effective, so now we have to wait not knowing when this will be happening and without having an escape plan.
A Dutch police officer on vacation, tries to take control and tries to calm everybody down… and that happens.
Somebody is asking if there’s a doctor among us, a woman confirms.
There a victim with a head injury that needs medical care and another person is hurt on arms and back.
No other injuries so far.
After an hour we’re informed that the Tsunami warning is not effective anymore and everybody is relieved.
Here we are… at least 500 people, tourists and locals, all laying on a field and instead of being in our 4 start resort we’re looking to the sky filled with stars…. it still has something romantic.
If you’re laying on the ground you hear and feel the aftershocks so much better.
A faint sound and a vibration, you hear the earthquake rising from the depth of the earth.
Luckily there’s still a phone signal and I can inform my parents that we’re okay. The only thing they wanted to know and let me know is: “How’s the weather” and “you wouldn’t believe how hot it is here in Belgium”. Well… REALLY??!!!!… I decide to hang up the phone because I am not in a mindset right now that is thinking about the weather!
At 2AM the hotel owner is informing us that she’s returning to the hotel to get some blankets, water and toilet paper. I decide to volunteer and go with her to get all the necessities. I am the only one who joins her all the others men are chickened out.
Eventually a total of 4 men volunteered to go along with the hotel owner. A trail along houses and fallen walls.
When we’re finally arrived at the hotel we some some hotel employees sitting on the ground. We’re getting blankets and I take this opportunity to go back to my room. A local guy comes along. The damage is huge. Walls are cracked, the concrete stairs cane through the wall, concrete structure of the building is broken. I try to open the door of my room but am not able to. The ceiling came down a bit and it’s blocking the door. The local is trying to help me to open the door and after a while we’re able to do so. First thing I see is that the minibar is on the ground and our shampoo lays in the middle of the hallway. In the bathroom tiles are broken and came of the wall. Concrete pieces are on my bed and pillow. This is where I could be laying. I get my backpack and our passport and make sure I’m out of here.
I bring back blankets and water to the field, our home for the rest of the night. Although we don’t sleep, we’re fortunate enough to take some power naps while Mother Earth is still shaking…shaking like crazy.
Women are crying and children are hysterical screaming out loud.
I don’t know how long it lasted but felt like an eternity.
We are gathering at the beach in front of a building. We need to get out of here before this building will collapse.
And here we are…
A woman, only wearing her panty, her husband naked. Towels are given to them to cover themselves.
The hotel owner is gathering all of us and wants to do a first check en is calling all occupants per room number to see who are there.
Not everyone is here… probably some went out for an excursion to the close-by located Gili Trawagan Islands. Some families are separated because of it.
In a blink of an eye the hotel owner sees the sea disappearing, a sign of a possible Tsunami.
Where can we escape to on this tiny island? Top floor of this damaged building?! No way.. way to much damaged already.
We decide to go to the middle of the island.
Totally dark. People are using phones to get some light.
On our way we are walking through a thick muddy greasy debris. We don’t want to know what that is. We’re smelling septic tanks and oil.
We see lots of debris, fallen trees, trash.
All of a sudden we see an open space, a pasture probably looking at the cow manure. People are coming from all sides, locals are bringing plastic tarps to sit on. In the meantime a local guy is trying to set something up with wood, electrical wire and a light.
After 10 min there’s a diesel generator and we have light. At the end of the field I see a 60 meter high communication tower. This must be the highest point of the island, although it seems as low as at the beach.
In the meantime we all felt many aftershocks. I stopped counting.
The hotel owner is gathering us all again, at the end of the field close to the forest and wants to do a counting again.
All of a sudden earth is shaking heavily again… panic all over again, what will happen when the 60 meter tall communication towel will fall over or collapse? All our lights are focused on this building. We are standing between the trees and we need to walk under some electrical lights lines. We’re all walking to the other side of the field where nothing can fall on our heads. The locals (majority are Muslims) are praying. The women are singing prayers. The men are calling Allah Akbar.
At 6am with a group we’re heading back to the hotel. Last night a few went back to sleep on the beach chairs. For me it didn’t seemed right because of the really cold ocean breeze.
Being back at the hotel and seeing it during the day we can really see all the damage.
We really are lucky. Walls on the 1st floors are broken and large cracks are visible. The outside wall of the room beneath our room is no longer there, it felt straight into the bathroom. You wouldn’t survived it when you were taken a shower when it happened. And if this would have happened at night it would have been so much worsen
What’s next? We just need to wait, wait and wait.
We are hearing that the earthquake was worse than a 7.0 on the scale of Richter.
The epicenter was in Lombok, about 4 kilometers away from us.
At this moment already 82 victims and counting… the whole coastal area is ruined.
I’ve contacted our travel agency Travelbird and their answer is: “we’re trying to find a solution and if you want to go back home we’ll try to find a flight for you, but all the costs involved are for you. What the…??!!!
Our travel plan was that we’re going to Lombok for 3 days.. but that’s not an option anymore. What do they want us to do? No answer.
I’m contacting my travel insurance agency VAB em their answer is: “Sir, earthquake is not covered under your travel plan”
Time flew by and it’s 10:30AM and we still haven’t seen or heard anybody.
No boats in the scenery and also they won’t be sailing out. Because all boats are from Lombok and they have other things to do than evacuate us.
Another new earthquake, this time 5.5 Richter. A few moments later we saw a strange wave towards the beach. Is this a mini Tsunami?
I’m really curious to know how our adventure will come to an end.
Noon. The first sign of the authority, a helicopter flying over us. But that’s it for now. No news from the travel agency. The hotel is handing out ice cream, that has started to melt because there’s no power.
All of a sudden 6 people show up that went on an excursion to Gili Trawagan Island. Seeing them reconnecting with the rest is just emotional. They tell us that here the chaos is organized and structured not like it is on the Island they just left behind. Looting is happening. It’s just and unorganized mess on the other island.
Here we have build and improve kitchen and we started to cook spaghetti. We only have for about 30 min gas left in the generator before we run out and will be out of power again.
Prices for liquor have been increased. The hotel is helping us or as much as they can. All their employees left the hotel by now and went with a boot back home to Lombok where the earthquake took a big hit. They hadn’t received any news from the family because all communication is not possible anymore on Lombok. Everything has been destroyed.
12:50 pm. A large group Dutch tourists are deciding to leave the resort and want to check out other possibilities to leave the Island. They leave a mess of trash behind what is upsetting some of the people that are staying behind. Spontaneous a group is start to clean up the mess. At the same time we get the news that the Navy has starting the evacuates some Island. Let’s hope we’re on their list as well.
The woman that was wounded on back and arms starts to cry and is looking pale. Everybody is worried but when we find out what happens everybody is just relieved. Her boyfriend just asked her to marry him. Romance is surrounding us. Let’s hope they only have prosperity in their future.
Next problem. Bathrooms. 3 restrooms for 50 people, no water to flush. We’re trying to be hygienic as possible3:45PM All the drinks are being rationed. We’re running out of drinking water and there’s no fresh water available on the Island. The hotel owner is looking for coconuts so we’ll have something to drink and eat. Also she found a box of melted ice cream.
4:30PM Because there is no hotel staff presence anymore at the resort there’s no other option than to work. All the guys are setting up tables at the beach and women are preparing food. We decided to bbq and try to make it a feast to lift up the spirit of the group.
Meanwhile we see a boat passing by we all hope that people are not forgetting us?!
The owner is working so hard to get us a boat so we can leave the Island. On a nearby Island there more than 7000 people waiting to get of it as well. And it’s a very slow process, 20 people per boat.
We all hope that the owner can and have good connections so we can leave the Island and go to Bali.
We still haven’t received any news from our travel agency and the local partner at all. I only can imagine we’re not the only one trying to get hold of them. Luckily we have perfect host that are trying to do their utmost best for all of us. They are emptying out all the refrigerators and all the fish that is in it will be out on the bbq so we all have some food in our belly. This is the last food we have and we’re desperately hoping we’re getting rescued tomorrow or it would be a real survival for all of us.
7:30PM I made a bed out of 2 beach chairs, a mattress, pillows and blankets. I have reduced those items out of collapsed home. I’m using the mattress as a shield for the wind. This will be our second day sleeping outside. This time not out in the field but on this idyllic white sand beach.
And again there are the after shocks, let’s hope they won’t getting stronger.
The sky is filled with stars and I even see a falling star.
From where we now are we can see
Lombok and another small island. That’s where the epicenter was. It’s really dark over there I can’t see any single light. I only see some fires on the beach, they must be also out of power.
Sleep tight and see you tomorrow.
Sleep? No way!!! At 11pm we encounter agains some earthquakes! The damaged to the buildings are only getting worse. We’re blessed to be sleeping on the beach! The whole night we felt shocks.
6AM We’re enjoying a beautiful sunrise, the question is do we want to enjoy it? We receive an update, a boat is going to pick us up at 8AM. 30 min later this changes into 11am. In the meantime we all are cleaning up the mess to help out the owner so he doesn’t need to do this on his own when we’re gone. The owner and his family and leaving together with us. We have made some breakfast with fruit and some eggs. Now there’s really nothing left on the Island.
Last night a group backpacker arrived, they came from a nearby youth hostel. They were just in shock. After we’re done with breakfast it’s their turn to eat to finish the food.
At this point we’re all equal, all refugees, waiting to be rescued, feeling abandoned, reset ourselves into survival mode.
New update. The owner has arranged for us to be picked up by a boat and will take us for free to Bali. Normally this cost 500,000 Rupiah . About 30 Euros a person. Still no news from our travel agency.
10AM Tuesday morning.
Our rescue boat is finally arriving after 2 scary days. Kids and wounded are the first one going on the boat. Max capacity it 54 and with all the resort people and some others on it the boat is full. 40 people are being left behind. They are the last ones on the island. The captain of the boat promise them that he’s coming back for them. The evacuation is going smooth besides some small incidents with the backpackers. The boat is too have packed and we’re stuck on the reef. But we’re able to get free. And again… most men are just watching instead of helping. We sailing on but where to is the big question?
10:30AM We arrived at Gili Tarawan. A bigger island that ours. Here bigger boats can reach the beach. The marine has taken control over the island. Yesterday there are 7000 people evacuated from this island. Maybe it was for a reason that we weren’t rescued yesterday, because it must have been a total mess here. Still there are about 100 people left on this island. And we all are going to be rescued and being brought to Bali later today. People are busy hoarding the horses, main transportation on this island, and loading them onto the boat. They need to get off the island as well.
This is the party island of the 3 island and you can see it because of the trash and the loitering. On this island 10 people haven’t survived the earthquake.
I find a bottle water on a table and it’s a relief to drink again after being out for a while. We used the dirty hotel pool water for cooking, doing dishes and bathing. There’s no other choice. Luckily we’re used to “bad water circumstances” after traveling throughout Asia after all those times. And now we’ve become champions in waiting…
Noon. Change of plans. Marines are letting us board into a speedboat that’s going to bring us to Lombok. The most damaged island. Our group is being separated. We all hope to see each other in the harbor so we all can meet and go together to Bali. After 15 min we arrive in Lombok. The army is welcoming us, just like the press and employees of Embassy. We’re brought into a bus that’s taking us to a ferry that will bring us to Bali. A 2 hour drive and 4,5 hour on the boat.
On our way to the ferry we see all the damaged that has been caused. And it’s heartbreaking and devastating to see it. People are trying to salvage as much as they can do. Here it’s just total chaos and we realize we’re lucky being only 4 km away from the epicenter. And without a single deadly victim in our islands. The hotel building has been damaged, but that’s only material stuff.
During the rest of our bus ride we see people sheltering outside on the streets and trying to survive. It’s a long 2 hour drive.
All of a sudden the bus stops and we need to get out. We arrive in a crisis center, that has been set up in a hotel. Again press is here again and they are looking for stories of survives. People coming to us and asking us to get a picture. I just had enough of this all.
We get free food and drinks. We need to register ourselves and have a mandatory nap of an hour before going back on the bus that will bring us to the ferry.
5PM We’ve found a spot on the ferry and because there a lot of people on it we need to sit on the floor. Although we’re not sitting in a bench or chair.. knowing what we have left behind and what we’ve seen this place on the floor is heaven for me. At this point the travel agency is finally contacting me, 2 days after the aftermath. I don’t have to explain I’m boiling at this point! They offer us to end our trip but if we do so we need to pay 2,070 Euro’s for new plane tickets. Insane right?! We arranged our own evacuation with help from the hotel owner but still… no help from them whatsoever. Now we have 5 nights in Bali, probably with lots of sleep in our furrier because with every vibration we’re awake and people will be in panic mode. I don’t even wish my worst enemy an earthquake like this one I’ve experienced. It came to my attention that SoCal Indo started the LOVE4LOMBOK 7.0 Campaign together with The Indonesian Community in SoCal to raise funds to help the victims on Lombok island, Indonesia, beautiful cause, please attend their event and fill up that place called AVIO in Anaheim.
But still.. I’m grateful that I’ve been able to make this trip. We are SURVIVORS
How cynical: the movie shown on the ferry is San Andreas; a movie about a gigantic earthquake in the United States.