The earthquake that brought us closer together
No doubt you are all aware of the earthquakes Lombok and The Gilis have recently been experiencing. For many local families and businesses events continue to unfold. We thought we’d keep you up to date with whats happened and our plans for getting things back on track.
About 70% of the resorts here have been damaged, and many homes in the centre of the island need rebuilding. The immediate aftermath of the earthquake was total chaos and terror, but we tried to keep calm and rallied together to help as many locals and tourists as we could.
So many incredible people offered help in the immediate after-mass of the quake. A doctor on holidays and a group of English nurses put together a makeshift clinic in a central Gili Air field to help the wounded. They organised people to carry them on wooden beds down to the harbour getting them safely to Lombok. Others collected painkillers and supplies from tourists and local businesses for all the injured. The fields were full of terrified people but as they all worked together they became somewhat united, and that feeling of unity and solidarity helped calm us after the chaos of the quake.
About a dozen of us from Oceans 5 Gili Air who had been huddling together since the quake got up at sunrise the next day and met a few of the local staff who had not evacuated the night before. We wanted to help in any way we could, so our captain Oja put his hand up to ferry survivors off the island. As he left on his first run he promised to return and pick up more people. We were not sure if he was going to come back in five minutes or hours or even return at all. Everything was up in the air and so uncertain, panic was still in the air, and no one knew what to expect. 20 minutes later Oja returned to take another boat load of grateful people back safely to Lombok. From then on he helped ferry people for the entire day. Like Oja we all just used what skills we had to keep helping out in any way that we could.
We tried our best to help with the huge flood of people storming Oja’s boat. We let the locals go first so they could get home to their Lombok families as quickly as possible, they were the most panicked after all. Not knowing if their family was safe or not was incredibly unsettling for them. After that we boarded families with lots of children. Giovanni, Warren, James and a few other staff members remained on hand to make sure that we did not exceed the boat’s limit and got everyone back safely. Maintaining a sense of calm and making sure everyone knew they were all going to be okay was most important to us.
Oja worked tirelessly all day and would not take a break. He begrudgingly stopped for about five minutes to eat and use the bathroom, but then went straight back to ferrying people off the island. Different staff members worked in rotation as anchor man for the boat. We reckoned that by the end of the day we evacuated a minimum of 600 people but it is likely to be much more than that. We didn’t charge anybody, we just wanted everyone to be safe.
During the evacuation we organised a food station for the remaining resort guests. They all wanted to stay and help so we made sure to keep them fed and calm. We also gave people marked maps so if they were remaining on the island they would know where the safe areas were. A tsunami warning had come through the night before, but we didn’t think it likely. Yet we showed them the safest places on the map to be if there were aftershocks. We tried to handle it tactfully and tried to keep everyone calm. We assured them we would look after them and made sleeping arrangements for them that night. We couldn’t get to our dive resort on the first night because the earthquake struck at eight and it was too chaotic, most people slept in the open fields. On the second night we then set up camp in the gardens of the Dive Shop taking mattresses from the rooms, blankets, linen and towels. Beyond our guests there were also a good number of Gili Air-ians who didn’t know where to go so we took them in as well. No supplies went to waste, and everyone able to help did so willingly and happily.
After the second night we evacuated half of our resort guests, but a small group of us stayed on to protect our shop and wait for news. We played music to raise morale, which cheered people up a lot, but we used it sparingly because power was in short supply. We slept one more night and then our chief and Oceans 5 Gili Air owner Sander returned. He got delayed quite a few times due to all the chaos, but remained determined and eventually made it back to us. We were incredibly happy to see him. We had told all guests and remaining locals that they should leave, but we had decided to stay on, we just wanted to help as much as we could. We spent only an hour with Sander before the police came and said that there was only one more boat leaving. We were told to either leave now or not at all. So reluctantly and sadly, we packed up our few belongings and got on the boat. And here we all are together in a house in Cangguu. For us this disaster has just brought us closer together.
We are now busy working as a team to organise supply drops, hiring fast boats to take over cargo and a lot of our staff are voluntarily coming back to work. We told them they didn’t have to, but they’ve all come anyway. We’ve offered them the facilities here in Cangguu to bring their families too and make sure they feel safe in the interim whilst our island home finds its feet. We feel incredibly honoured and proud of our staff who followed us into this terrible adventure. None of us were prepared for it and we are just learning as we go. Things are slowly returning to some kind of normal although there is still not a reliable source of water. We are told that this will change soon. But Sander is back and unwavering in his mission to get the island back on track. With the help of our amazing staff we will continue to work hard to rebuild our island home.
On Sunday, twenty-one of our amazing staff came to help us begin reconstruction of the shop. We took all the glass and doors out, to get all the pillars in place. Now its time to put everything back together. This is our project for the next couple of days. We are refilling the pool then will start reconstruction on the bungalows. We’re really just re-laying the foundations, rebuilding, and trying to bring back the beauty our fantastic establishment previously possessed.
Tomorrow its laundry day. And we’re also going to be giving out the supplies we got in today! The staff here in Bali are doing an amazing job getting supplies to where they’re needed and also helping out immensely with our social marketing.
We just want to say a massive, massive thank you to everyone from Oceans 5 who made this incredible effort to help the people of Gili Air. Their efforts during this disaster to keep order and help people when there was no help from the authorities was truly amazing. Before the military arrived we were completely on our own, yet everyone voluntarily chose to stay and help. We just want to see our beautiful Gili Air Island home alive and bustling once more and will do whatever we can to make that happen. We are getting lots of help as people want to know our story from all over the world and see the progress that everyone is making to get their lives back together. And we want to see all of you back here at Oceans5 as soon as possible. Keep safe and see you all soon.