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Sunday 21 October 2018

All Irish tourists accounted for after devastating Indonesian earthquake

Ambassador pays tribute to response of Indonesian authorities in relation to visitors after devastating earthquake

People crowd on the shore as they attempt to leave the Gili Islands. Gili Trawangan, in Lombok, Indonesia, August 6, 2018. Indonesia Water Police/Handout/via REUTERS
People crowd on the shore as they attempt to leave the Gili Islands. Gili Trawangan, in Lombok, Indonesia, August 6, 2018. Indonesia Water Police/Handout/via REUTERS
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

The Irish ambassador to Indonesia has said all of the Irish people caught up in this week's earthquake have been accounted for.

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

The evacuation from Gili Trawangan in Indonesia (James Kelsall/PA)
The evacuation from Gili Trawangan in Indonesia (James Kelsall/PA)

A magnitude 7.0 quake that struck on Sunday night, damaging thousands of buildings and killing at least 98 people.

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

Images showing hundreds of tourists queueing on the beach to leave the island Gili Trawangan on Monday morning illustrated the challenge faced by Indonesian authorities in relation to foreign visitors as it worked to respond to the devastating quake.

The islands have no cars or no airports on the islands making them idyllic for holidays but difficult when crisis hits Mr O'Sullivan said.

"The sudden movement of people trying to get off the island overwhelmed the transport that was there," he said.

But in the case of Irish visitors "everybody should now be off the Gili Islands if they wish to be," Mr O'Sullivan said.

The earthquake has left at least 98 dead and devastated much of the infrastructure in Lombok. The majority of the deceased are believed to be local. Given the extent of the damage caused by the quake Mr O'Sullivan paid tribute to the response from Indonesian authorities in relation to tourists.

"In that context the Indonesians made a fairly significant effort to divert their resources to help tourists get off the island. I think they've done a good job in looking after foreign visitors," he said.

There were no Irish fatalities in the earthquake and no serious injuries,Mr O'Sullivan said the extent of the injuries among the Irish there is sunburn, exhaustion and cuts and grazes.

Meanwhile, soldiers have pulled a man alive from the rubble of a large mosque flattened by an earthquake on the Indonesian island of Lombok.

Rescuers were still struggling to reach all of the affected areas and authorities expect the death toll to rise.

Disaster officials have not said how many people they believe are buried beneath the ruins of the Jabal Nur mosque but a rescue worker said about 50 people were praying inside when it collapsed.

Video shot by a soldier shows rescuers shouting "Thank God" as a man is pulled from a space under the mosque's flattened roof sometime on Monday and he staggers away from the ruins supported by soldiers.

"You're safe, mister," says one of the soldiers as emotion overcomes the man, clad in Islamic robes, and villagers crowd around him.

Aid organisations, already on Lombok after it was hit a week earlier by a 6.4 quake that killed 16 people, said they were stepping up their humanitarian efforts.

Oxfam said more than 20,000 people were in temporary shelters and thousands more were camping out in the open.

It said clean drinking water was scarce because of a recent spell of extremely dry weather in Lombok.

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