The night the earth shook was darker than any other. "When the earthquake hit, we all ran outside because we had never experienced one that strong," says Pablo Martín, a 31-year-old from Malaga, speaking in Kuta, south of Lombok. Pablo was not on holiday: Lombok has been his home since 2012. With his partners Cristian Santana and Alberto Rico, he owns the Kuta Baru hotel and Sushi-k restaurant.
There were two major earthquakes in one week and more than 130 aftershocks of different magnitudes. Fourteen were killed by the one on 29 July, but more than 100 have died after the one on Sunday. That's why, once they were no longer in danger, Pablo and other local business owners decided they had to help. They realised that in the north, in Nusa Tenggara were the epicentre had been, the situation must be considerably worse.
"In Kuta, the buildings aren't very high and they are well-built. Also the aftershocks were weak and quite a distance apart," he says. He and his partners discovered that rescue attempts in the north were hampered by bridges collapsing and no electricity or telephone cover.
"We collected money among the nearby hotels and raised 2,000 euros," he says. What was needed most was drinking water and medication, so they loaded two 4x4 vehicles with those, food and clothing, and set off early in the morning. Normally, the journey from Kuta would take three hours; they were heading for the top of the Rinjani volcano. It was nightfall by the time they arrived.
"It's the poverty that causes this disaster, not the earthquakes," says Pablo. Houses with no foundations, simply built of brick and wood, collapsed with the first signs of the earthquake. The north of Lombok looked like "a war scene,"not because of the earthquake but for what it left behind it.
"People have to stop looking at Lombok with fear and start doing so in solidarity," says Pablo. The compensation offered by the government is laughable: the equivalent of 895 euros for the families of people who died, and up to 150 euros for the injured. The Disaster Mitigation Agency is working flat out, but international aid is only arriving bit by bit and there is a lack of coordination. Pablo says the authorities are trying to provide resources, but many villages are difficult to reach. He and his colleagues have made contact with the Balanced World Indonesia association, which is trying to take treatment plants to the most hidden areas, and they are facilitating the arrival of 12,000 bottles of water and tinned foods from the Herbal Pharm company in Singapore. "Money from abroad is important. Even a small amount of euros is a lot here and can buy many things," he stresses.
They have set up a Paypal account so that people can make donations which will arrive as directly as possible: email@example.com. Nor does the "alarm" and "tension" in some of the media help matters. "If you come here, especially to the south, you will see that life is going on as normal," he says. But there is still a lot to do.