by Abu Hanifah
MATARAM, Indonesia, Aug. 7 (Xinhua) -- Thousands of foreign tourists have flocked to the Lombok airport, waiting for flights to fly them out of Lombok, an Indonesian resort island in West Nusa Tenggara (NTB) province following a devastating earthquake on Sunday night.
They jostled for the flight tickets at the airport for fear of more aftershocks after the powerful 7.0-magnitude quake killed 98 people and injured more than 230 others on the popular tourist island.
With weary look, they came to the airport from hotels with buses provided by Indonesian police and provincial authorities.
They have not had enough rest as they stayed awake the whole night outside the hotel, fearing for strong aftershocks striking around their hotels.
Part of those swarming group at the airport were those who were just evacuated from small islands around Lombok in the central NTB province, which are very popular for foreign tourists.
Caroline is a French tourist in her 20s whose vacation with her friends in Lombok's small island of Gili Trawangan ended up with a horrible experience.
"I was shocked to feel the ground trembling hard; that likely lasted quite a long time. Somebody in the beach told us to run to higher ground on the island and we did that," she told Xinhua at the Lombok airport on Monday with a pale complexion and muddy shoes.
"The whole people went up with the fear of what could happen after that," she said.
When learning of information circulating among people who fled with her to the higher ground that a tsunami alert has been issued, Caroline felt so helpless to realize that she was in the place that could be easily swept away by a deadly wave.
She said she spent the whole anxious night in the cold with the crowd as nobody picked them up that evening after the earthquake.
"I can't sleep. It was cold as we stayed in open space, no blanket or whatever to cover us, let alone food which was very limited," she recalled the terrible moment which she had never experienced before.
Caroline said one of her friends cried when feeling the aftershocks that could lasted almost 10 minutes.
She said ships came to their rescue the next morning and brought them back to the popular tourist spot of Senggigi on the Lombok island. The vessels were still evacuating tourists from the Gili Trawangan island after her turn to jump on a ship at noon.
After the harrowing ordeal on the island, Caroline and her friends went to their hotel with buses already waiting for them in Senggigi.
They packed up their luggage, checked out from the hotel without taking a shower or even changing their clothes and directly went to the airport.
"I want to go back to Jakarta first and plan to go back to France from there. It's hard to get a ticket here now. I will stay here until I and my friends get ones. I don't know when," she said.
Indonesia's National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) said up to 2,700 foreign and domestic tourists have been evacuated from the small islands around Lombok - Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno and Gili Air - since Monday morning with vessels.
Caroline joined the huge number of foreign tourists wandering at the airport with many of them setting up tents and waiting for flights to get them out from Lombok soon.
Elsewhere in the provincial capital of Mataram, residents preferred to stay outside their houses, set mattresses and sleep in the yard.
Ika, a female domestic tourist who stayed in a Mataram hotel, said she planned to cut short her vacation in Lombok due to the earthquake.
She arrived in Lombok on Saturday and went to Senggigi before the quake shattered her campus holiday.
"I am now stranded here as I can't get the flight ticket to return to my hometown Palembang," the 23-year-old student told Xinhua.
She and other hotel guests ran to Loco hill in the city after being ordered to do so by hotel security personnel during the aftershocks.
"I saw motorbikes tumble down with their riders as they sped up on the road when it happened," she recalled the strong tremors that hit the city on Sunday.
An official at the airport said the airlines opened ticket counters for the tourists wishing to immediately leave Lombok. The airport was now also opened 24 hours to serve flights for foreign tourists.
He added Indonesian airlines provided five extra flights bound to Bali, Jakarta and Surabaya for them on Monday with more flights from Lombok having been planned in the following days.
A 6.4-magnitude earthquake jolted Lombok island on July 29, which killed 17 people, injured over 350 others and stranded some 500 hikers on Mount Rinjani volcano.
The BNPB said the death toll of Sunday's earthquake has reached 98, and 236 people were injured and over 20,000 displaced.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo has issued an order on Monday for related ministries and agencies to provide best mitigation services for tourists vacationing on the earthquake- stricken island, particularly the outbound flights.