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Indo Of the Month – September – Written by Peter Van Roey

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.

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