Tourists affected by a strong earthquake line up on a beach waiting to be evacuated on Gili Trawangan Island, Indonesia. Pictures: REUTERS/African News Agency (ANA)
Durban - A South African woman was among the thousands evacuated from the Gili Islands following a 6.9 magnitude earthquake in Indonesia on Sunday.

Cape Town food and travel photographer and blogger Melissa Delport, who was holidaying in Gili Trawangan, one of the three small islands north of the island of Lombok, which was the epicentre of the earthquake, described the ordeal on her Facebook page.

Almost 100 people have died and scores were injured.

Delport wrote: “The earthquake hit when we were thankfully not near where all the buildings collapsed. Slept the night in an open field for safety. The fear is real but right now remaining calm and staying safe. People are scrambling and screaming. We are safe, waiting for chaos to die down to get the first safe boat out of here to Lombok. Smaller boats are leaving to Lombok heavily overladen in rough seas. Praying for all those out there.”

While she waited, Delport photographed some of the destruction and wrote: “An adventure to say the least. Will share more images of the devastation of this beautiful little island once I’m back on solid ground. My prayers are for the people living on this island who have lost everything. We are safe. Thank you everyone for the messages of love and light.”

She was eventually evacuated to Bali which was reportedly unaffected.

In Lombok, rescuers used diggers and heavy machinery to clear debris and search for survivors yesterday.

The island was further rattled by a magnitude 5.2 earthquake last night. Reuters witnesses said the quake woke up residents and tourists, who ran out of their hotels.

The National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) said it expected the death toll to rise once the rubble of more than 13000 houses was cleared away after the second major quake in a week.

Power and communications were severed in some areas, with landslides and a collapsed bridge blocking access to areas around the epicentre in the north.

The military said it would send a ship with medical aid, supplies and logistics support.

Indonesia sits on the Pacific Ring of Fire and is regularly hit by earthquakes. In 2004, an Indian Ocean tsunami killed 226000 people in 13 countries, including more than 120000 in Indonesia.

Officials said more than 2000 people had been evacuated from the three Gili islands off the north-west coast of Lombok, where fears of another tsunami spread.

Michelle Thompson, an American holidaying on one of the Gilis, described a scramble to get on boats leaving for the main island, during which her husband was injured.

“People were just throwing their suitcases on board and I had to struggle to get my husband on, because he was bleeding,” she said.

BNPB spokesperson Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said emergency units in its hospitals were overflowing and some patients were being treated in parking lots.

The Indonesian Agency for Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics said more than 120 aftershocks were recorded after Sunday evening’s quake.

Lombok had already been hit on July 29 by a 6.4 magnitude quake that killed 17 people and briefly stranded several hundred trekkers on the slopes of a volcano.

At magnitude 6.9, Sunday’s quake released more than five times the energy of the earlier one, the United States Geological Survey website said.

The tremor was powerful enough to be felt on the neighbouring island of Bali, where BNPB said two people died.

Despite it being a popular tourist destination, no foreigners were recorded among the dead, Nugroho told a news conference.

Some 236 people were injured and more than 20000 displaced, he said.

“We have yet to ask for help from the international community. But if there’s any friendly country who wants to offer help, please do,” Nugroho said.

British-based charity Oxfam said it was providing clean drinking water and tarpaulin shelter sheets to 5000 people and planned to intensify aid delivery.

The United Nations has offered to support rescue and relief efforts if required.

Long lines formed at the airport of Lombok’s main town, Mataram, as foreign visitors cut short their holidays.

BNPB said 18 extra flights had been added for leaving tourists.

THE MERCURY