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50 Irish tourists evacuated from Gili Islands

Tourists wait to get their airplane tickets at Lombok International Airport following an earthquake

ABOUT 50 Irish tourists have been evacuated from the Gili Islands in Indonesia after an earthquake struck the region.

The Irish Ambassador to Indonesia Kyle O'Sullivan said about 30 people left in the immediate wake of the quake, with the remainder evacuated early yesterday.

He said that the idyllic islands could be very difficult during a crisis.

The north of Lombok has been devastated by the magnitude 7.0 quake that struck on Sunday night, damaging thousands of buildings and killing at least 98 people.

Rescuers were still struggling to reach all of the affected areas and authorities expect the death toll to rise.

Aid organisations, already on Lombok after it was hit a week earlier by a 6.4 quake that killed 16 people, said they were stepping up their humanitarian efforts.

Oxfam said more than 20,000 people were in temporary shelters and thousands more were camping out in the open.

It said clean drinking water was scarce because of a recent spell of extremely dry weather in Lombok.

Hundreds of tourists and workers were still struggling to get off three outlying resort islands where power was cut off and hotels and hostels were damaged.

Gillian and Michael Harvey from Dublin, and their two young daughters left their hotel room just before its roof partly collapsed.

They had only been on the island for about two hours.

They told RTÉ News that they decided to leave the hotel to go for dinner shortly before the earthquake. This meant they were beside the beach, and away from potential falling debris.

"The ground was shaking violently," they said. "We headed onto the sand and couldn't stand so lay down with one of the kids each.

"All the power went out so the only light was from people's phones and torches."

British tourist Saffron Amis, stranded on Gili Trawangan island, said she spent a second night outdoors as aftershocks rattled the region.

"We slept in a bungalow until another quake hit us at midnight and then we moved to the beach," she said.

At Lombok's airport, dozens of tourists slept on the floor as they waited for flights off the island.

Many hotels closed because of damage but some allowed travellers to camp in their lobbies.

"That was my first experience with the earthquake and it was really terrible," said Lize Reert, a Belgian woman among the several thousand who fled Gili Trawangan.

"It was a nightmare."

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