The earthquakes in Lombok
I’ve spent many months of my life in Indonesia and love this Country and it’s people sincerely. Having a lot of friends all over the archipelago makes my Facebook an up-to-date source of info what happens there. And every time I read something like an earthquake hit it again, it gives me weird feelings. Even being so far away.
During all my trips to Indonesia, I was lucky to never experience anything serious (touch wood) and always felt safe.
Sure, it’s not fun for us as tourists to experience something like that. But we can leave the Country and go back to our safe havens, while the locals often have to start again from scratches.
One of the tourists who was on a surf trip in Lombok while it happened is Eliana. She is safe back home in Switzerland but felt like sharing her experience with whoever is interested.
I am definitely one of them! Maybe you too.
Thanks Eliana for sharing.
Guest post by Eliana Graf
Right now I’m heading back home from Lombok. During the earthquake, I was in Kuta, Lombok. I wrote this text in a reaction to a Facebook post. As I got a lot of positive feedbacks, I decided to spread the word. I’ve studied Geography and I’m teaching Geography at senior high school. That’s what helped me to get a deeper understanding of the situation. Plus I’m an editor of Switzerland’s surf magazine WaveupMag.
I left Lombok deeply impressed about nature, but also about people doing their best helping an island that faces the force of nature. I hope that this article might help you to make the right decisions for yourself and everybody else. It’s not unreasonable to go to Lombok right now. But it would be highly unreasonable to go there unprepared.
The epicenters of all the latest earthquakes in Lombok were located in the very north of the island. Earthquakes in Indonesia are produced by a lot of underground pressure. Once this pressure is released, it travels like a wave and gets weaker with distance. That’s why the South, where I was and where most surf spots are, was not really affected by it. I haven’t seen any damages in Kuta, Lombok.
If you want to help, donate online. I heard that a lot of cash deliveries got rubbed. Of course, all help is needed, like clothes, water, food, medicine. If you want to travel over there with donations, watch out! I heard a lot of things got stolen and deliveries were rubbed. It might be a good idea to get in touch with organizations or people already helping and knowing the situation over there. Some people in Lombok lost everything! Houses, family, friends… In general, Indonesians are very kind and respectful. But as I heard, some desperate souls are just trying just to survive somehow.
When it comes to my personal experience, I can say that we were very lucky. We were treated with much respect. But I heard from a lot from travelers up in the North, that they were asked high prices for being rescued. Some people tried to take advantage of the situation, which I think is under such circumstances even understandable. But anyway, the best thing to do is, do what YOU think is right.
When it came to the question if we should stay or go, we decided to go for mainly two reasons. First, we were afraid of another, maybe even bigger earthquake. And second, we didn’t want to hinder the locals in helping their families, because they felt like they had to care for us too. I got help when it came to a transport in the middle of the night or got even free food at the airport. I almost felt a bit bad about it, knowing that many have lost their home or some relatives. But they were just there to help us and did their job. I heard from several travelers from the North, where the worst affected area is, that after the earthquake they slept amongst injured people and even dead bodies!
On Tuesday, the 7th of August, when I stayed the whole day at the airport, I’ve seen one rescue team after the other arrive. Indonesian doctors, paramedics, nurses, firemen, climbers, you name it. They were all heading to the island to help. Local men arrived with tons of rice and other food. Local women left Lombok for other destination like Java. I’ve been talking to a woman who lost her home and somehow got a visa and a flight ticket for Dubai. She didn’t know if she’ll ever see her husband again. But she was happy and excited to leave.
The military landed non-stop, helicopters kept coming and going the whole day. People from Embassies from all over the world were at the airport to help tourists with flight bookings.
At the moment the biggest risk is a new earthquake. On the 9th there was another one with a magnitude of a 6. When I left on the 8th, I felt the earth still trembling. The after shakes were not so dangerous with a magnitude of ‘only’ 5. If you take a closer look at the charts of seismic movements, you can see that the situation today is far from normal. On the 9th of August, 79 little tectonic earthquakes took place in Lombok alone. No one knows what will happen next.
On the day the heaviest earthquake happened, I was in Kuta, South Lombok, and we were havening dinner when it hit us. We run outside, the earth was moving up and down and the water in the pool was overflooding. But that wasn’t the most dangerous thing. The panic of other people, mostly westerner was much worse. We decided to drive our motorbikes to the Ashtari hill, just to be sure a tsunami wouldn’t get to us. So I had to drive through Kuta. On the way up the hill, I passed three accidents. I’ve spent several hours on the hill, knowing that I was actually safe but still with anxiousness. I don’t want to go through that again!
Since then, I had the passport and my credit card always on me, even during the night. An emergency backpack was packed with my laptop, clothes, medicine and some food and water. I didn’t think I would need it, but I felt better knowing I was prepared. During the next three days, I had to run out of buildings three times.
Human behavior in the situation
If you’ve decided to stay and help, or for whatever reason, it might be useful to know a couple of things. In case a next earthquake hits you, you run immediately out of the building. You might have learned at school to protect yourself under a table or in the corner of a room. That’s only good for cities with proper buildings. If you’re close to an exit you should run anyways. Leave everything behind. You can hopefully get important items later. During the quake, you need to watch out for falling parts of the building and other things coming from above. A massive danger is falling wires, as they can cause a fire or electrify water! After the quake, you decide whether to evacuate yourself because of a possible tsunami or not. If you have to evacuate, take the fastest way to the next higher hill or inland. And make sure you‘ve already checked possible evacuation roads. That’s a smart thing to let become your routine while traveling along coastlines and areas where earthquakes are common.
Tsunamis can be caused by quakes on the sea or really close to it. And they are not always big. In fact the one in Lombok this time was only 15 cm.
Before the tsunami hits the coast, the water goes out.
The time for the waves of the tsunami to travel to the coast is linked to the distance from the quake to the coast. The last bigger one in Fukushima hit 19 minutes after the quake. The huge one in 2004, that cost so many lives in Sumatra, Thailand, and Sri Lanka, traveled for a few hours. The impact force of the tsunami is linked to the magnitude of the quake, the distance from the quake to the surface of the ocean and the material of the earth ground. In general the closer to shore, the weaker the waves are. Same as with the swells we surf.
When it comes to picking your place to stay, look for wooden houses or bamboo. They are way better than cheaply built houses with concrete. It’s usually not easy to distinguish a well made concrete building from a bad one. A nice finish looks the same on any foundation.
Sometimes you can sense an earthquake before it hits you by lying on the ground. That’s why Japanese people traditionally sleep on the ground. I couldn’t really sleep well during my whole stay without any reason. And when I slept on the ground of Lombok Airport, I sometimes had the same sensation as if I’d sleep on a boat in a very quiet harbor. Some people say you can even see water in a glass trembling a bit.
The day before the earthquake hit Lombok, the waves were really choppy without being affected by the wind. And the current was much stronger than usual. I remember how I struggled while paddling in the channel, and I had to paddle a lot more than on other days to stay in the line-up. Plus the wave period was not regular at all. It was a really difficult surf.
I left the place full of question marks. After the quake hit us, I knew why!
What I heard about the surf the day right after the quake was, that the waves very super clean and smooth. These signs can maybe help to protect us before another earthquake takes place. As long as we don’t get paranoid once the waves in Indo are not absolutely flawless…
I guess we have to re-learn to listen to our gut feelings.
Eliana Graf, 10.8.2018