A Donegal woman shares her terrifying experience of Sunday's Indonesian earthquake to highlight the urgent need for aid.
Sophia Gallagher was walking through her home in North Lombok on Sunday when the ground suddenly started shaking and the world as she knew it collapsed.
The Letterkenny woman (32), who works as a diving instructor on the holiday island, ran out onto the street to escape the destruction of the 6.9 magnitude quake that struck on a horrific evening she will never forget.
“Strangers were grabbing onto each other to stay steady as the entire ground moved. There had been an earthquake a couple of days ago and they were all shouting ‘this is worse, this is worse’,” Sophia tells Donegal Woman.
The death toll of that day has reached 300 so far, but the aftershocks have not settled, and people are still trapped under rubble.
Sophia spent Sunday night on higher ground in fear of a tsunami. As a trained nurse, she attempted to help a local family whose son had been severely injured. However, he was too far gone and she could do nothing but watch the little boy die in his mother’s arms.
“It was chaos. We had no lights, just flashlights, and there were thousands of people stuck on one hill. There was a tower on the hill that fell a bit with every aftershock and so much panic.
“I’m a nurse, and someone asked if I would go down to help. I would do anything for anyone but I was absolutely terrified. I had just witnessed a little boy dying and I couldn’t,” Sophia said.
Sophia was fortunate to get off the island 13 hours after the quake struck. At that time, she saw bodies all over the beach, people trapped under the rubble, but no help was coming.
“Nobody came. I thought maybe helicopters would come, but there was nothing.”
Thousands of tourists were evacuated from the three Gili Islands in the days after the disaster. But for the locals who have to remain, Sophia says they have no help.
Speaking from Bali, Sophia finds it ‘brutal’ that life is going on as normal for people on this popular honeymoon island which is neighbouring with Lombok.
“All of Lombok is suffering. Entire villages have been wiped out, the hospital was damaged and hundreds and thousands of people are left without food, water, electricity and the aid isn’t getting to them.”
Sophia has joined an international team of people who have managed to leave the island and want to send aid back.
“We are people working in hospitality and diving and other jobs who have friends in Lombok. We are all traumatized, but at the same time we are doing all we can to help the people who are still there.
“We want to spread the word to help the people who do not have the money to fly to Bali.”
Sophia has been travelling to Lombok for the past five years, where she has been greeted with nothing but kindness from the locals who are now suffering.
“Lombok is what Bali was 20 years ago. The people are super friendly, they are so excited to invite you into their houses and share their food, have you meet their families and take pictures with you.”
“I’ve seen such lovely people experience such bad things and they really need help,” Sophia said.
Sophia’s relief team are working together to raise awareness of the people’s plight and to send over emergency supplies.
She said: “A lot of our group have lost their jobs, we do not have much funds, but we are here. Every single cent we get is going to buy food, rice, noodles, blankets, mosquitos and medical supplies. I know people in Donegal might not have much money, but if they even share the fundraising page it would be a big help.”
“Anyone who has ever come here would know what the people are like. They love tourism and it’s so sad that the government has abandoned these islands.”
Sophie is planning to return to the island as soon as it is safe to do so. “There isn’t a hope I’d go home and leave these people behind,” she said.
If you wish to donate to the Lombok Earthquake Support fund, please visit: www.gofundme.com/lombok-earthquake-support