Laois couple caught up in Indonesian earthquake

Michelle Hogan


Michelle Hogan

Laois couple caught up in Indonesian earthquake

Pictures by Rory Heffernan and Moe Kadri

A Laois couple’s paradise holiday turned into a nightmare this week when a powerful earthquake shook the Indonesian tourist island they were visiting.

Rory Heffernan and Sasha Scully, both from Portlaoise, were on an Indonesian island, near Bali, when a 6.9 magnitude earthquake struck, killing almost 100 people across different islands and tearing buildings to the ground throughout Sunday and Monday. 

Sky News has reported that the death toll is expected to increase. Two of the people who died were in neighbouring Bali at the time of the quake, which has also left more than 200 people with serious injuries and flattened thousands of homes and buildings.

Rory took to Facebook to let family and friends know that both he and Sasha are okay.

“From paradise to a nightmare in seconds, caught in the middle of an earthquake and sleeping on a hill to avoid tsunami but we're both safe and off Gili T and back on Bali,” he posted to friends on Facebook with pictures below.

Gili Trawangan is one of the islands hit by the earthquake. 

Rory, who is a member of An Garda Síochána and Sasha, received messages of well wishes from friends on Facebook.

Further Facebook posts by Moe Kadri, a person who Rory and Sasha befriended in the emergency, have outlined the ordeal, parts of which the Laois couple have gone through in the last two days before eventually boarding a rescue boat. 

Moe Kadri outlined their experience.

“The past 48 hours have been the most difficult of our lives. It was just after dinner, we were walking home and I noticed the locals start to panic. Within seconds, the grounds started to shake, the houses started to break apart and the screaming started. It lasted for roughly a minute but it felt like forever.

“Once the shaking stopped, we cautiously began to walk around, people were everywhere, either severely injured or dead. We didn’t know what to do, but we knew we couldn’t be around structures so we resorted to the beach, which was flooded with locals.

“The earthquake set off the tsunami alarm which added to the panic. Many said to go to the “mountain” and many advised that the water hadn’t receded and staying on the beach would be fine.

“After hours of debate and continuous aftershocks, we agreed that the water levels were fine and decided to set up camp on the beach with hundreds of other tourists. It was 9 pm, we had no power, nothing to keep us warm, and no idea what to do.

“After talking to a family from Denmark, we agreed that the risk of going to get our luggage was not worth it. We picked up a bunch of tanning beds and lined them up. Thankfully towels were distributed to help keep us warm. It was 9:30 pm. We had to do our best to keep warm and survive the aftershocks until 6:30 am.

“News outlets report that by 8 am there were 131 aftershocks recorded, some we felt, some not, but the worry of another earthquake happening had us on edge all night. Once the sun rose we decided to make the trek through the village and get our stuff.

“After getting our luggage we went back to the harbour to try and get ready for the so called “rescue boats”. The locals teamed up with the tourists to set up clinics and get help to anyone that needed it.

“A cemetery was set up for those who lost their lives, all close to the harbour so the deceased and injured could take priority on getting off the island. We thought they were coming, they weren’t. There were thousands of people already lined up on the sand but no boats in sight, the locals were transporting their families off the island but that was about it.

“We decided it would be best to walk down the beach and get organized. This is where we met Rory and Sasha. We exchanged our experiences with the earthquake (the went up the mountain) and started to talk about a game plan.

“We ended up setting up shop midway down the beach as it wasn’t as crowded and could still be seen by boats. We watched as small boats flooded in, loaded up the locals, and left. It was 8 am. The next few hours consisted of gathering water and battling the heat.

“I believe it was around 1 pm that boats started to show up, the first was for rick holders only (hard to believe that they’d enforce a rule like this in such a time, but they did) and the second was free. The free boats continued throughout the day but we had no chance of getting on, as the locals would jump on from every angle, as seen in the videos.

“This continued for hours. There was no army, no navy, no presence of the Indonesian government, just videos taken by the police to make it look like they were helping. This continued for the rest of the day.

“By about 3 pm ferries started to show up, but couldn’t get close enough to us because of the low tide. We were told by our friends that the Irish government has informed them that transfer boats were on the way to load us from the beach to the ferries.

“We waited. By 5 pm we started to contemplate making it back up the mountain and surviving another night on the island, as sun set was soon and all the tourists were still stranded.

“By about 6:30 the transfer boat arrived. It was mayhem, we were pushed and shoved but we remained strong, left our luggage and climbed on to the transfer boat. It was the biggest feeling of relief.

“All day, Rory, Sasha, Sab and myself talked about sticking together, so it was unsettling not seeing them on the boat, but thankfully, towards the end, they walked on and our worries vanished. We were transferred on to the ferry and immediately settled in. Having spent the past 48 hours on sand without food or sleep, a padded chair and noodles felt like royal treatment. We later found out that the island was hit with another earthquake after we left. This experience will sit with me forever..”

Pictures by Moe Kadri on Facebook.