Indonesian Islands Were Shaken in Quake. Tourists’ Confidence Was, Too.
GILI TRAWANGAN, Indonesia — On the evening the earthquake struck the tiny island of Gili Trawangan, which was easy to panic. The ground swayed along with the lights went out. Walls fell over along with windows broke. At least one smaller hotel collapsed.
The government issued a tsunami warning, along with thousands of tourists along with workers rushed to safety atop the island’s only hill. The warning was canceled soon after however the refugees stayed put through the night, tormented by aftershocks along with barely sleeping.
The next day, hundreds of anxious tourists along with workers crowded the main beach on Gili Trawangan along with waited hours for rescue boats to arrive. Videos of the scene — along with foreigners’ complaints of a slow government response — went viral.
“When the earthquake happened, everybody was in a panic,” said Guntur Sakti, a spokesman for Indonesia’s Tourism Ministry. “which was even more chaotic when there were rumors about a tsunami. People wanted to flee. however to expect us to provide boats to evacuate them right at which moment, which was not possible.”
The quake which struck Lombok Island along with the three nearby Gili islands on Sunday left at least 259 people dead along with displaced more than 270,000. The worst damage was in North Lombok, where entire villages were destroyed. The United States Geological Service put the magnitude of the quake at 6.9.
The Indonesian authorities say which no foreigners were among the dead. however one enduring image of the disaster will be the crowds of foreign tourists waiting at the beach to board rescue vessels.
Some hotels inside the stricken area have continued operating despite aftershocks, including one Thursday, along with others have reopened. additional shop along with hotel operators wish to be back in business in weeks or months.
however which may take longer to persuade large numbers of tourists to return.
“which can be easier to restore the electricity than the reputation of the islands,” said Sander Buis, who runs the Oceans 5 dive resort on Gili Air, another of the Gili islands.
through the years, Indonesia has been developing Lombok along with the three nearby Gilis — Trawangan, Meno along with Air — as tourist destinations. Lombok, a short flight by Bali, can be less crowded along with its white-sand beaches are more alluring.
One of the more well-known areas can be Senggigi, a coastal strip on the west side of Lombok, where several high-end resorts have sprung up in recent years. Many of them suffered damage by the quake.
After the quake hit, hotel managers in Senggigi evacuated their hotels along with led guests up into nearby hills, where they spent the night.
The next day, many visitors tried to leave Lombok however there were not enough flights. Hundreds of tourists camped out inside the airport terminal along with inside the lobbies of nearby hotels For two main days as they waited.
The Sheraton Senggigi Hotel, which was one of the first major hotels built inside the area, closed because of earthquake damage. Most of the guests chose to leave the island rather than accept fresh lodging. which was unclear when the hotel could reopen.
“In light of the recent earthquakes which took place in Lombok, guests at the Sheraton Senggigi Hotel have been evacuated,” said Christopher Chung, the Indonesia sales director for Sheraton’s parent company, Marriott International.
The three Gili islands lie off Lombok’s coast just north of the Senggigi beach. The two smaller islands, Gili Air along with Gili Meno, sit barely above sea level. Neither have hills.
After the quake, tourists along with locals on Gili Air gathered in an open field so they wouldn’t be hit by falling objects.
“If a tsunami comes, bummer,” said Yann Dumas, manager of the Freedive Flow diving school.
On Gili Trawangan, visitors along with locals were not so fatalistic.
Some foreign tourists were spooked by the sound of waves crashing on the beach as they rushed up the hill. Aftershocks kept everyone on edge through the night.
“We sat along with prayed,” said Lala Intan Komala, a shop clerk on the island whose family home in North Lombok was destroyed. “No one dared to go to sleep.”
Many local workers, hearing about the deaths of relatives along with the destruction of their villages, were anxious to return home. Foreign tourists, fearful of tsunamis, were similarly apprehensive.
Some tourists complained of long waits along with pushing along with shoving as evacuees boarded the first boats. A few tourists offered local boat captains large sums to take them off the island rather than wait for free government rescue boats.
“The panic along with chaos made people willing to do anything to get what they want, including offering to pay any amount to be transported,” said Mr. Guntur, the Tourism Ministry spokesman.
Compared with the destruction in North Lombok, the Gilis fared well.
Many buildings on Gili Trawangan are damaged however look as if they could be repaired.
“As you can see, which’s not which bad,” said Jennifer McKay, an American who manages the Pesona Beach Resort along with Spa. “A lot of the tourists just wanted to get home. Who can blame them?”
Nearly a week later, about 100 people, mostly Indonesians, are still camping out on Gili Trawangan’s dusty hilltop 0 feet above sea level.
Herman, a boat captain who like many Indonesians goes by one name, said his group of about 30 relatives along with friends planned to stay on the hill for three more weeks, when they believe the quake danger will be reduced.
At midday, most of them were sprawled on mats along with blankets, enjoying a cool breeze under the shade of a large tree. A group of goats foraged nearby.
“We don’t definitely need help for the moment,” he said. “We are very happy here.”
Mr. Guntur said which barring further quakes, most tourist facilities on Lombok could be repaired relatively quickly. however the work on the Gilis will be slower because many workers must tend to their families in North Lombok, he added.
In all, the government evacuated more than 2,000 foreign tourists by the three Gili islands.
“The criticism came by people’s psychological condition,” he said. “The crude comments were because everybody wanted to get on the boat first.”
He said which could take time to counter the negative information along with restore the region’s reputation.
“The social media posts are more harmful than the physical damage,” he said.