Screaming. Running. The heavy rainfall of the last hours stops abruptly, as if it knows that it would add to the disaster. Then, the silence returns. The night continues peaceful and dark, as if nothing ever happened.
‘The trauma is still there,’ he says, ‘Although it was a small one, we all remember well the heavy ones of a couple of months ago. My children did not want to sleep anymore, even me was thinking to sleep outside again. But eventually we went back to bed.’
In August 2018 a series of severe earthquakes devasted the islanders of Lombok. It all started with a series of small earthquakes, such as the one this night. Nobody was worried, since they know the little earthquakes very well.
Circle of Fire
Lombok, as Indonesia, is situated in the circle of fire. Which means that every island has at least one volcano, and volcanic activity and seismic activity often go hand in hand. While watching the Mountain Rinjani the second biggest volcano of Indonesia, here in the North West of Lombok, one might have an idea of the power of volcanoes. It is huge. Powerful. Dominant present.
Yet, while the mountains bring many good, as described in the previous blogpost, they have their shadow side as well, which is presented by the event last night.
When walking through the village of Tetebatu I cannot get rid of the impression that this is a ghost town. Moreover, when staying as the only guest in the guesthouse. It is quiet here. Quieter than it used to be, according to the inhabitants. There used to be a lot of tourism, but people are afraid to come.
They left in the summer of 2018, and they did not come back. Or at least not in such a number. That summer several earthquakes followed each other up. ‘It was 6am on a Sunday when the first small earthquake started,’ he starts the story. ‘We were used to the small ones, so I was not worried.’ He laughs. But behind the laugh you can see the fear in his eyes.
‘The second was 7am, the other Sunday,’ he continues the story, and still panic did not happen. The story continues with a series of dates and times on which he had felt a small chock. But it all changed after the last small one. ‘When we returned to bed, we did not know that another village was destroyed.’ The earthquake was stronger than they ever had felt before. People started sleeping outside.
‘I build this bamboo hut for my son and his family,’ he appoints to the hut, ‘and I still sometimes sleep in it.’ In the north of the island several hundred people died. ‘They live in houses of stone and concrete, and the houses are built closely on one another.’ When those houses collapse, the damage is way bigger, whereas when the bamboo houses collapse, the impact is lower. ‘That is why I built everything of bamboo,’ he laughs genuine this time, and shows the bamboo houses around him. It is the same story as what I heard at Bohol in the Philippines, where Earthquakes shook the society a couple of years ago as well. Although it is the Earth that shakes, it might be the human constructions which have a big impact on the real damage of the earthquake in the end.
As Bohol, Lombok is recovering of the natural disaster. Houses are being rebuild, not all yet, tourists slowly find their way back to the islands, and people recover of the psychological trauma. ‘We were never afraid of earthquakes, you know,’ he concludes his story, ‘we always had them, they were part of our lives, and we would just continue sleeping or our activities when the earth trembled. But this earthquake was the biggest I’ve experienced in my entire life. Now I cannot consider even a small one as harmless, because you never know what will follow after.’