Lombok earthquake: Britons tell of panic as they evacuate Gili islands

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British tourists have spoken of confusion and panic as they waited to be evacuated from small islands off the coast of Lombok in Indonesia, which was hit by a powerful earthquake.

Holidaymakers on Gili Trawangan described how buildings collapsed around them on Sunday night and locals led tourists to higher ground after tsunami warnings sounded.

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Some holidaymakers said authorities carrying out an evacuation of the island had demanded money before allowing people on to rescue boats.

Speaking from a beach as he awaited evacuation, James Kelsall, 28, a teacher from Woodford Green in London, told the Press Association: “There were lots of injuries and pain on the island from buildings that had collapsed on to people.

“The most terrifying part was the tsunami warning that followed. All the locals were frantically running and screaming, putting on lifejackets. We followed them up to higher ground, which was a steep, uneven climb to the top of a hill in darkness.”

The British government said it was sending consular staff to assist stranded British tourists. Extra flights have also been added to help holidaymakers who want to leave, a UK Foreign Office spokesman added.

Helen Brady, 29, a writer from Manchester, said she and her boyfriend had narrowly escaped death after the earthquake began while they were walking through Gili Trawangan.

“All the lights went out and most buildings [were] demolished. If we’d been one minute slower, we would’ve been dead, or at the very least severely injured,” Brady said.

She said there had been confusion after that point, adding: “[Because] it’s a small island, no one knows what to do … We climbed up to the highest point and then they lifted the warning, so everyone went down and slept on the beach.”

Brady said she had been waiting for a rescue boat on the beach for eight hours.

Stranded tourists in Lombok, Indonesia
Some holidaymakers said authorities had demanded money before allowing them on to rescue boats.
Photograph: Beawiharta/Reuters

Katy Flay, 33, who was on holiday in the area with her partner, Stef, 29, told her brother authorities were demanding money from tourists before allowing them on to rescue boats.

“We have tried to get on many boats. Boats [are] leaving half empty as you need a ticket … no boats for everyone, just selected people. People are punching and hitting each other,” she told him.

Another British couple who were visiting the island with their two children described being traumatised by their experience. The family of four from Henley-on-Thames in Oxfordshire had witnessed looting and panic after the earthquake, a relative said.

“The kids are quite traumatised. I’ve spoken to my daughter and she’s clearly very frightened and very scared – frankly, they just want to come home. They were caught up in the first quake, so they’ve had two quakes in less than a week – I think it’s going to be Brighton or Devon next year for them.”

Indonesia’s disaster agency said late on Monday that at least 2,700 people had been evacuated from the islands. Authorities initially said 1,200 people were stuck. Some tourists chose to stay behind, the agency said.

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