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Northern Ireland tourist's terror as earthquake rocked Indonesia

By Ros Idrin

Two holidaymakers from Northern Ireland in Bali have described their "severe terror" as two huge earthquakes hit Indonesia.

The latest tremor, which came just a week after another quake killed 17 people on the island of Lombok, was also felt on the neighbouring resort island of Bali, where frightened tourists ran onto the streets.

Rebecca McConnell (26) from Moira has been in Bali with her partner for three weeks, taking a break from her job to travel through Asia.

The former Queen's University student witnessed the aftermath of the earthquakes, with former structures in piles of rubble on the street, fallen trees and damaged buildings.

"I didn't really know about the first earthquake as I was on the west coast at the time, far from where it hit," Ms McConnell said.

"However, yesterday evening, I was on the top of a bunk bed in a hostel in Kuta, south Bali. I felt the bed shake slightly at first, then increasing in strength and it hit me that it was an earthquake."

Ms McConnell described her terrifying experience.

"Severe terror entered my body and for a few seconds I was frozen, trying to remember what to do in this type of emergency," she said.

"I then followed suit of the locals and headed outside the building.

"I know all earthquake routines tell you to stay inside and get under the table, but I figured the structure of this particular building did not look stable.

"The tremor lasted for around 20 seconds, then there was an aftershock around an hour or so later, which lasted for about five seconds."

Ms McConnell said she and her partner were on "high alert" several hours after the earthquake, as the area they were in was under a tsunami warning.

"Being from Ireland, this was my first experience of a natural disaster and it was terrifying. I've never felt fear like that before.

"I made sure to message home to let my parents know I was OK, as during the previous earthquake we had no signal and they were worried sick."

Ms McConnell said that while travelling from Kuta in south Bali to Ubud in the centre of Bali, she encountered many collapsed buildings and clean-ups in progress.

Authorities said rescuers have not yet reached all devastated areas of Lombok and expect the toll of 98 dead to climb.

Damage was "massive" in mountainous northern Lombok, where the quake was centred, said National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho.

A large mosque collapsed on worshippers in Lading-Lading village and rescuers used a backhoe to search the debris.

Some areas still hadn't been reached 24 hours after the quake because of collapsed bridges, blocked and ruptured roads and the loss of power and communications.

More than 230 have been seriously injured. Thousands of homes and buildings were damaged and those displaced camped wherever they could - in sports fields and on roadsides, cobbling together ramshackle shelters and building campfires for warmth.

The Bali and Lombok airports have stayed open.

The UK Government is sending consular staff after hundreds of tourists were left stranded.

The Foreign Office said staff were being sent to Lombok from the consulate in Bali and embassy in capital Jakarta to assist stranded UK tourists.

Extra flights have been added for those who want to leave.

Young families and couples on their honeymoon were among those caught up in the chaos.

Helen Brady (29), a writer from Manchester, said she and her boyfriend James Kelsall (28) narrowly escaped death.

"All the lights went out and most buildings were demolished," she said.

"If we'd been one minute slower we'd have been dead, or at the very least severely injured." Mr Kelsall, from Woodford Green in London, said: "All the locals were frantically running and screaming, putting on life jackets.

"We followed them up to higher ground, which was a steep, uneven climb to the top of a hill in darkness."

Power had still not been restored to the island by yesterday morning, he added.

Also affected were celebrities including Take That singer Gary Barlow and model Chrissy Teigen. Barlow wrote on Twitter that he had been involved in seven earthquakes, but "none have felt more deep and raw".

Teigen, who was travelling with singer husband John Legend and their two children, wrote on Twitter: "Oh man. We are on stilts. It felt like a ride. 15 solid seconds of "hooooooly s*** this is happening."

Tourists flocking to the coast in search of rescue were confronted by mayhem. Footage from yesterday morning showed crowds scrambling aboard a boat in a frenzied bid to escape.

Ash Flay, whose sister Katy was stuck on Gili Trawangan with her partner Stef, said the rescue effort had been a "disgrace" and authorities were demanding money from tourists.

In a message to her brother, Ms Flay, from Leeds, said: "Boats (are) leaving half empty as you need a ticket... no boats for everyone just selected people. People are punching and hitting each other."

A spokesman for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) said: "We are working with the Indonesian authorities to provide assistance to British people caught up in the earthquake in Lombok and the Gili islands.

"FCO consular staff are deploying to Lombok to provide assistance to those who need it."

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