Saturday 23 February 2019

'I've never felt fear like it', says tourist of quake that left at least 98 dead

Rebecca McConnell
Rebecca McConnell

An Irish couple on holiday in Bali have described their "severe terror" as two earthquakes hit the neighbouring island of Lombok.

Rebecca McConnell (26), who lives in Dublin, has been in Bali with her partner for more than three weeks, taking a break from her job to travel in Asia.

In that time there have been two large earthquakes in Indonesia.

At least 98 people were killed and more than 200 seriously injured in the 6.9-magnitude quake that rocked Lombok, east of Bali, on Sunday evening.

However, the death toll is expected to rise, with rescuers using diggers and heavy machinery to clear debris and search for survivors.

The previous quake, of 6.4 magnitude, happened a week before and claimed 14 lives.


Footage filmed by Ms McConnell shows the aftermath, with former structures in piles of rubble on the street, fallen trees and damaged buildings and the debris being cleared away.

"I didn't really know about the first earthquake as I was on the west coast at the time, far from where it hit," she said.

"However, yesterday evening I was on the top of a bunk bed in a hostel in Kuta, south Bali.

"I felt the bed shake slightly at first, then increasing in strength and it hit me that it was an earthquake.

Rescue teams search for victims in the rubble caused by an earthquake in North Lombok, Indonesia
Rescue teams search for victims in the rubble caused by an earthquake in North Lombok, Indonesia

"Severe terror entered my body and for a few seconds I was frozen, trying to remember what to do in this type of emergency.

"I then followed the locals and headed outside the building.

"I know all earthquake rout- ines tell you to stay inside and get under the table, but I figured the structure of this building didn't look stable.

"The tremor lasted for around 20 seconds, then there was an aftershock around an hour or so later, which lasted for about five seconds."

Ms McConnell and her partner were on "high alert" several hours afterwards as the area they were in was under a tsunami warning.

"Being from Ireland, this was my first experience of a natural disaster and it was terrifying," she said.

"I've never felt fear like that. I made sure to message home to let my parents know I was OK, as during the previous earthquake we had no signal and they were worried sick."

Ms McConnell said that while travelling from Kuta to Ubud in the centre, she encountered many collapsed buildings and clean-ups.

She said she was praying for the people of Lombok.

Indonesia's National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) said it expected the death toll to rise once the rubble of more than 13,000 houses is cleared away.

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

In 2004, the Indian Ocean tsunami killed 226,000 people in 13 countries, including more than 120,000 in Indonesia.


Officials said more than 2,000 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 for boats leaving for the main island, leaving her husband hurt.

"People were throwing suitcases on board. I had to struggle to get my husband on, because he got trampled and was bleeding," she said.

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