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RFI journalist witnesses panic and confusion during Indonesia earthquake

Aftermath of August 5th earthquake in Gili Trawangan, Lombok
Aftermath of August 5th earthquake in Gili Trawangan, Lombok Rfi / Anne-Marie Bissada

At least 105 people are now known to have died after a powerful the 6.9 earthquake hit the Indonesian island of Lombok on Sunday. Terrified holidaymakers continue to  rushe for boats and planes to leave Lombok.


A Radio France Internationale (RFI) journalist was holidaying on Gili Trawangan, one of the small Lombok islands close to the epicentre in northern Lombok when Sunday's earthquake struck. Journalist Anne-Marie Bissada got caught up in the the chaos, as buildings collapsed and holidaymakers jostled to leave.

Bissada, who subsequently left for the nearby Bali Island, told RFI on Tuesday of the scenes of chaos and confusion in the aftermath of the quake.

''It was about 8 o'clock in the evening, already dark. We saw a rush of people coming out which looked like a fire in a house because there was quite a lot of dust coming out. People started screaming and crying and we felt the movement of the earth and of course we realized what had happened."

The RFI journalist said there was a certain degree of panic and confusion because there were virtually no officials on the island to advise people what to do so everyone was nervously checking their mobile phones.

She, along with hundreds of other tourists and locals, sought refuge in the hills away from the coast until the aftershocks subsided and the Tsunami warning was lifted.

"Buildings had collapsed. I ran into some tourists who said as they were running from the beach front up to the mountain they saw people caught in the debris in the buildings but they couldn't do anything to help them."

There were then scenes of chaos as people struggled on Monday and Tuesday to get aboard boats to evacuate the island, often at a price.

On her Twitter feed, Anne-Marie posted photos of looting in local stores in Gili Trawangan.

More than 2,000 tourists were eventually evacuated by boat from nearby Gili Islands.

On the neighbouring island of Bali - video footage showed people running from their homes screaming.

Indonesian security forces and emergency workers are racing to aid victims and search for survivors.

Rescuers on Tuesday resumed the desperate search for survivors, and to recover the bodies of victims in the rubble of houses, mosques and schools destroyed in the latest disaster.

More than 20,000 people are believed to have been made homeless on Lombok, with 236 severely injured, and authorities have appealed for more medical personnel and basic supplies.

Sunday's quake knocked out power in many areas of Lombok's main city of Mataram and patients from hospitals were cared for in the street after wards were damaged.

Most of the victims were in the mountainous north and east of the island, away from the main tourist spots and coastal districts in the south and west.

Najmul Akhyar, the head of North Lombok district, estimated that 80 percent of that region was damaged by the quake.

Bali's international airport suffered damage to its terminal but the runway was unaffected and operations had returned to normal, disaster agency officials said.

It was the second quake in a week to hit Lombok, whose beaches and hiking trails draw holidaymakers from around the world.

That 6.4-magnitude quake wihch struck on July 29, left 17 people dead, damaged hundreds of buildings and triggered landslides that briefly trapped trekkers on popular mountain hiking routes.

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