herald

Wednesday 12 December 2018

'My home in paradise is destroyed, but locals have taken biggest hit'

Fiona Smith and Ondrej Gomola have been left ‘devastated’ by the earthquake, which damaged their home in Indonesia
Fiona Smith and Ondrej Gomola have been left ‘devastated’ by the earthquake, which damaged their home in Indonesia

A Dublin woman has said she is heartbroken that her home on the Gili Islands has been "severely damaged" by the earthquake in Indonesia.

Fiona Smith (32) and her partner Ondrej Gomola (37) have been living on Gili Trawangan for six years, working as general managers for a diving company.

The scuba instructors, known as Fee and OJ by friends and locals, evacuated the island and headed to Bali after a magnitude 7.0 quake struck Lombok island on Sunday night.

Swords native Fiona said the couple were "devastated" at the destruction caused by the quake.

"We are devastated and are trying to process what we have been through," Fiona said.

"We can't live in our house again but things can be rebuilt and stuff can be replaced."

Evacuated

Fiona added that staff were the couple's main priority, with more than 100 employees in need of help.

Quake damage to the home of Swords woman Fiona Smith.
Quake damage to the home of Swords woman Fiona Smith.

"We have been evacuated to Bali but we have 109 local staff who have all been affected in some way by the disaster," she said.

"Our priority is them and to get supplies to them as soon as possible. More than half of them have lost their houses."

According to Fiona, businesses in the "paradise" they have lived in for six years have been greatly affected.

"Our little paradise island that we have called home has taken a hit and the foundation of our island and its businesses, which are the local people, have taken the biggest hit of all," she said.

A GoFundMe campaign was started to help Fiona and her partner Ondrej, originally from Bratislava in Slovakia, "get back on their feet" and rebuild their home.

"We are hoping to raise a few bob to get them back on their feet with the essentials so then they can continue to help others," a close friend said.

"Gili Trawangan needs homes repaired so people like Fiona and Ondrej can live back here.

"Without the businesses open and repaired there will be limited tourists. Therefore, the impact on locals and the island itself is unthinkable."

A separate fundraising campaign has been set up to help rebuild Blue Marlin Dive, the diving centre that Fiona and Ondrej work from.

The home before the earthquake
The home before the earthquake

According to the page, staff members are believed to be safe and hope to return to the island next week to start rebuilding.

"Fortunately, our facilities at Blue Marlin have minimal damage, but we cannot be up and running until all of our staff have taken care of their families," said Fiona.

Yesterday, the Irish ambassador to Indonesia said that all of the Irish people caught up in the earthquake had been accounted for.

Ambassador Kyle O'Sullivan said that up to 55 Irish people were on the Gili Islands when the earthquake struck.

Speaking on RTE's Morning Ireland, Mr O'Sullivan said that around 30 of those were evacuated on Sunday night but the remainder were, in some cases, waiting on the beach for up to 36 hours to be evacuated.

The quake has left at least 131 dead and authorities say the death toll is expected to rise.

Nearly 2,500 people have been hospitalised with serious injuries and more than 156,000 people are displaced due to extensive damage to their homes.

The majority of the deceased are believed to be local.

Hope

In Gumantar, a rural hamlet in northern Lombok, around 40 people were killed in Sunday night's disaster.

"What is most important is that we're alive. But we are out of hope and we are out of energy," said farmer Haji Ruslan, who lost his house in the quake.

Like thousands living in the farmland and hills of northern Lombok, the people of Gumantar camp out under flimsy tarpaulin tents, too rattled by the huge quake and continuing aftershocks to sleep indoors.

Residents speak of neighbours and family members who died in the disaster, but there is little emotion in their voices. Many remain in shock.

"It's like being in a dream. I can't believe this has happened and everything is gone," one man said.

Some residents, like Mr Ruslan, have already started to clear up the debris with their bare hands.

"We don't know how to start over in the future and we hope someone will help us," he said.

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