A series of earthquakes, the first a 6.9-temblor on August 5th and another 5.9-magnitude quake on August 9th, have devastated Lombok and the nearby Gili Islands in Indonesia. The large scuba-diving community on Lombok and the Gilis has united during this challenging time to help however it can. Much of the reporting about the disasters has focused on tourists and their safety. But the real story lies in the aftermath — how a small-island community has united and organized grassroots disaster relief for the 300,000 people displaced, injured and in need of basic necessities after the Lombok earthquake.
Lombok earthquake devastation
After the 6.9-magnitude earthquake on August 5th, the government evacuated both residents and tourists for their own safety. Over 70 evacuated staff from five different dive shops organized in Bali to coordinate sending supplies to Lombok. Extraordinary, they have raised over £40,000 ($51,000 USD) with gofundme pages (see below). They have also coordinated several rescue missions to remote areas that are still without aid and supplies.
Foreign dive professionals in Lombok and the Gilis could easily go home or get jobs in another area. But many are planning to stay. “We live, work, eat, dive, and share the same passion for the ocean as the locals on the island, most of whom are from Lombok,” says Josie Tognolini, a dive instructor currently working on the ground in Bali.
Together, they have secured warehouses in Bali and filled boats with food, water and shelter. They organized with local dive staff in Lombok to deliver supplies to the most remote areas despite constant aftershocks affecting their supply routes. “Sadly, some of our staff have lost family members,” says Inka Creswell, divemaster trainee and media coordinator, “but we will not give up until every family has been located and their needs met.”
Working to help the Gilis
Despite the evacuation, some dive staff members stayed behind on Gili Trawangan without water, electricity, or any infrastructure whatsoever. Neil Baxter, a British dive instructor on the island who was previously a welder and fabricator, stayed behind to clean and rebuild because he felt his “skills could be used to help rebuild the island.”
“This place is our home, we are a family,” he says.
The tourism industry on Lombok and the Gilis supports hundreds of local families. Therefore it’s vital to repair damage on the islands as soon as possible. “We are doing everything we can to get the island up and running as quickly as possible so that our staff will have a job and income to support their families and rebuild their homes in Lombok,” says Baxter.
A long road to recovery
The collective effort of these divers has helped families in Lombok tremendously, but the road to recovery is long.
“We have seen a decrease in the demand for bulk supply of necessities, meaning immediate needs are being met, but the need for basic infrastructure and sustainable water supply is still very dire,” Creswell says.
Media coverage has declined since the tourist evacuation, so teams in Bali continue to update social media. They hope to keep the public informed on their efforts and let them know exactly where their donations are going. You can support the tremendous #gilistrong efforts of these fellow divers by donating any amount of money you can spare using the links below.
Additionally, you can follow live updates on the dive-shop social-media pages below: