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Saturday 20 October 2018

Irish diver vows to rebuild her life on 'paradise' island after earthquake

Dublin-born Fiona Smith and partner Ondrej Gomola
Dublin-born Fiona Smith and partner Ondrej Gomola
Residents and tourists on Gili Trawangan island in Indonesia wait to be evacuated after the magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck the region. Picture: AFP / Melissa Delport / @trufflejournal
The damaged office of the scuba-diving business on the island run by Dublin-born Fiona Smith and partner Ondrej Gomola

Rachel Farrell

An Irish woman has said she is heartbroken after her home on the Gili Islands was severely damaged by the earthquake in Indonesia.

Dublin-born 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 yesterday 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 trying to process what we have been through," she said.

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

She said their staff was their main priority, with more than 100 employees in need of help.

"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 Ms Smith, 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 foundations of our island and its businesses, which are the local people, have taken the biggest hit of all."

A GoFundMe campaign was started to help Ms Smith and Mr Gomola, originally from Bratislavia, 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 tourism, 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 where the couple work.

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

"Many of our local staff have been left homeless and with limited access to food and water," Ms Smith said.

"Luckily, the Blue Marlin Dive team is safe.

"We hope to go back to the island next week when we can start receiving supplies to begin the rebuilding process."

Irish Independent

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