Irish newlyweds describe being caught up in Indonesia earthquake

‘We knew from how the locals were reacting that this was a scary situation’

Aoife and Jenna Mehigan were on the island of Nusa Lembongan in Indonesia when Sunday’s earthquake struck. Photograph: Aoife Mehigan

Aoife and Jenna Mehigan were on the island of Nusa Lembongan in Indonesia when Sunday’s earthquake struck. Photograph: Aoife Mehigan


Aoife Mehigan and her wife Jenna were in their wooden beachside hut getting ready to change for dinner on Sunday night when the walls of their room began to shake.

“We were just sitting on the bed and then suddenly the whole hut was shaking. It went on for a good 15 seconds. We heard a big rumble and there was lots of shaking and screams.”

Aoife who is from Dublin and Jenna, who is originally from Cork, ran to the door and watched as large waves thrashed the edge of the pool near their room as the ground beneath them continued to move. As soon as the tremors came to a halt the pair went outside where they found other guests from the hotel taking shelter.

“The people in the concrete houses beside us were very afraid,” said Aoife. “There’s a lot of give and sway in the wooden huts but the people in the concrete ones were terrified. They slept out by the pool that night because of the aftershocks.”

The Irish couple, who were married earlier this year and work as teachers in England, had just witnessed the effects of the 6.9 magnitude earthquake which struck the nearby Indonesian island of Lombok on Sunday killing more than one hundred people and injuring more than 236 others.

The newlyweds had arrived on the Indonesian island of Nusa Lembongan a few days previously after landing in Bali last week for their honeymoon. They were scheduled to catch a ferry on Sunday, August 5th to the Gili islands. However, the boat crossing was cancelled due to bad weather. “It’s quite an open sea journey so it was cancelled and then that evening the earthquake happened. It kind of felt like someone was looking out for us that day.”

The scariest part

After the initial quake the hotel guests gathered to try and find out what had happened. With wifi unavailable and the phone signal almost non-existent they struggled to get updates from the outside world. Then news of a tsunami warning began to spread.

“It was so dark and the wifi was gone, that was the scariest part. Everyone - Germans, English, Irish, Dutch and local people - we were all trying to find words to share information.

“When the wifi came back we went on Twitter and all the news stations were reporting the threat of a tsunami. We knew from how the locals were reacting that this was a scary situation.”

An hour later, as the couple were just beginning to relax, a second quake hit the island. They watched in fear as the staff at the restaurant where they had been sitting jumped on their mopeds and sped off in the direction of a nearby hill. The women followed the crowds to higher ground where they remained until they were certain that the tsunami warning had been lifted.

Aoife, who was 18 when the 2004 tsunami claimed more than 230,000 lives in 14 different countries, including Indonesia, says the memory of that disaster means she always reads the tsunami emergency advice when visiting at risk areas. “It’s more out of curiosity but when we come to places like this we always read the evacuation plan. 2004 made us much more aware of how you need to respond.”

The couple have decided to stay on the island for the remainder of their honeymoon rather than continuing on to the Gili islands. They have experienced a number of aftershocks since the initial quake which they say are worrying for everyone, locals and tourists alike. They are keeping family and friends updated through text when wifi and coverage are available.

“We’re definitely more on edge. People are trying to figure out where to go next because there are so many aftershocks. Do we stay here where we know the place or go to Bali where there’s more aftershocks? You just hope you’re making the right decision. We feel weirdly shaken right now. But overall we’re fine.”