The horror of being trapped on an island, while your dream holiday turns into a nightmare, is a situation many face in earthquake, fire and volcano prone countries. The reality is that you can’t plan for what Mother Nature has in store.

On Sunday, August 5, a 6.9-magnitude earthquake struck Indonesia’s Lombok island – more than 154,000 people were displaced and hundreds were killed after buildings collapsed and the island crumbled. On Thursday, August 9, another earthquake hit the island shortly after noon measuring 6.2-magnitude. Hundreds of tremors followed causing more damage.

Cape Town photographer and cookbook author, Melissa Delport, was traveling in Bali when the earthquake struck. She left for the island on July 21 and has been documenting her time there on her Instagram feed. Then the earthquake struck and her beautiful pictures turned into messages of hope for the locals. Her heart-breaking experience gives you an insider’s look into the disaster.

These are Melissa’s words, unedited…

“The earth quake hit whilst my partner and I were at dinner. We are both from Cape Town. Thankfully we were in the middle of the island away from the bigger buildings that could collapse on us. The Gili Islands are part of Lombok so we were very close to the epicenter. The main island of Bali is on the other side and thankfully wasn’t affected save for a few ceiling tiles that collapsed at Denpasar airport (as far as I am aware). During the 6.9 quake on Sunday the lights went off and the island was thrust into pitch black darkness.


“A few minutes after the ground erupted we heard frenzied screams of a Tsunami coming with hundreds of people running in the road towards the only (small) hillock on the island. We remained at the location in the middle of the island fearing walls and buildings could collapse on us while running with aftershocks on destabilized structures. One of the electricity poles collapsed outside within 10 minutes from the main quake. A large aftershock was felt as well as a number of smaller ones in close succession.

‪Current evacuation status on Gili T off Lombok. We are safe waiting for chaos to die down to get the first safe boat out of here to Lombok. The earth quake hit when we were thankfully not near where all the buildings that collapsed. Slept the night in an open field for safety. The fear is real but right now remaining calm and staying safe ? people are scrambling and screaming. Smaller boats are leaving to Lombok heavily over laden in rough seas. Praying for all those out there. ?? •••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••• #bali #baliearthquake #GiliTrawangan #IndonesiaEarthQuake ‬#lombokearthquake #prayforlombok

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“After 2 hours sitting in an open field next to the warung where we ate (Pituq) we needed to return to our accommodation to get my partners medication (Lauren is asthmatic). It was pitch black and it was terrifying trying to find our way to our room with dusty streets and no street signs. We were completely turned around and could not find our bearings. The locals were incredible and helped us find our way there.

“The roof of our accommodation had Collapsed and we quickly made our way into the room to get meds, warm jackets and running shoes. While we were inside, another aftershock occurred – it was terrifying. We made our way back to the open football field in the middle of the island where hundreds of locals were camping out and praying in groups. Screams for doctors to assist people trapped and injured in rubble. It was chaos. We remained on the field until daybreak and then made our way to our accommodation to collect our things as Everyone was making their way to the beach for a mass evacuation.

“The locals were desperate to get back to their families in Lombok which took the biggest hit and where the maximum damage happened. The thing that struck me was the obnoxious attitude of the tourists expecting preferential treatment over the locals.  There was no electricity or water on the island and all the shops (the remaining shops that did not sustain damage) were closed and barricaded with the locals leaving the island to get to Lombok. The scuttle and scramble to get onto boats was something out of a movie. There was a makeshift hospital setup on the beach to attend to the injured.

“The following evening, (Monday) My partner and I assisted one of the restaurants, The Irish in their kitchen to cook some food for the people on the island who were hungry and who had not eaten in over 24 hours. The manager, Jordan asked us to use whatever he had to help feed everyone. We made a makeshift serving station for people to come and eat. At 11pm we made our way back to the beach where we discovered that the Indonesian government was still trying to ferry people over to the big ships.

“We joined the queue and waited until We were able to make it onto one of the boats to Bali. The wait to get off the island was around 18 hours in total. After we arrived on the coast guard ship another 5.4 quake struck with the epicenter 2km offshore from Gili Islands. My partner and I thought we felt something but thought we were just traumatized and it was the engine starting. A friend of ours messaged us just after midnight telling us that they had another quake and there was a Tsunami warning. The boat trip back to Bali was rough and took 8 hours. People made makeshift beds on the decks and tried to get some rest.

“When we arrived in Bali we stood and watched the sunrise feeling immensely grateful for our lives. It still feels surreal and any shudder or loud sound is making us jump. We are just processing the trauma. We are so deeply heart broken for those that have experienced worse and for the locals that have lost families homes and businesses. Please visit my highlights for foundations where donations are being collected for relief from this disaster. Every little bit helps. The people in Lombok have Suffered and don’t even have drinking water.”

You can follow her experiences @trufflejournal on Instagram. If you would like to donate to the people of Lombok, click here. 

Pictures: Melissa Delport

Article written by

Nidha Narrandes

Nidha Narrandes is a food-obsessed travel addict with 21 years of journalism experience. Her motto - Travel. Eat. Repeat. She is happiest on a road to nowhere without a plan. A masterchef at home, she can't do without chilli - because chilli makes the world a tastier place.