NEWS

Donegal Town couple escape with their lives from earthquake

Matt Britton

Reporter:

Matt Britton

Email:

matt.britton@donegaldemocrat.com

Donegal Town couple escape with their lives from earthquake

Chaotic scenes following the earthquake PICTURE: CG

A young Donegal town woman escaped with her life when last week a magnitude 6.9 earthquake hit the island of Lombok where she had been holidaying with her partner.

To date 387 people have been confirmed dead and this is expected to rise with a staggering 450 aftershocks hitting the island in the last week.

Claire Gillespie from Donegal Town has been working in Melbourne as an account executive in the insurance industry when along with her partner Kevin O’Leary they were holidaying on Gili Trawangan, a small island just south of Lombok when the devastating earthquake hit.

Speaking to the Democrat from Bali, Claire said, “It was the most terrifying thing I have every experienced and hopefully will never encounter anything like it again. It was like something out of the movies but this time it was for real.

“Kevin and I had been in a pub called Tír na n-Og when around 8pm chaos just broke out, the whole thing happened so fast.

“The walls of the bar were swaying, things just crashing all over the place, glass smashing, roofs collapsing and water spraying all over the place. It was terrifying with people just screaming and being hit by debris.”

She continued, “Like everybody else we just ran out of the pub and followed everybody else. The locals were pointing to the hills because of the fear of a tsunami and we just followed. People were screaming “water, water” and we both climbed up trees to get to the highest point.

“Everything was just pitch dark, there was no electricity but we managed to find our way up the mountain using the lights on our mobile phones. That night there must have been at least ten more aftershocks, we really did think that we were not going to survive. Like everybody else all we could do is pray.”

Contacted parents

Claire did manage to contact her parents Ann and Pat Gillespie in Donegal Town just to let them know that she was alive. “All I could say was, we’re ok, we’re ok - it was a pretty terrifying time for them as well.”

The couple met up with their Australian friends in the morning and slowly climbed down the hill. Without food and water they climbed into wrecked shops and houses to look for some and that in itself was a sight they will never want to see again.

Claire added. “There were just some people in the houses who didn’t make it and were just killed when the earthquake hit - it is a sight I will never forget.”

She said they were evacuated off the island which she described as “chaotic”. People were climbing upthe sides of boats with their belongings on their heads, there were arguments and some people were fighting.

“We eventually made it to Seminyak in the west of Bali and to be honest both feel just so lucky to be alive. An experience like this makes you appreciate how precious life is,” she said.

Mother talks to the Democrat

Speaking to the Democrat Claire’s mother Anne said, “The whole thing has been an awful experience and I don’t think it has really sunk in yet. I didn't even know about the earthquake until I got the call from Claire as she was running up the mountains - all she kept saying was ‘I’m alright, I’m alright, we’re safe, we’re safe’ this was when the worst of it was happening.

“Both Pat and I were just living in fear of the next phone call and the news that it might bring. The whole thing just puts everything into perspective.

“Just how fragile life is and how things can just change in the blink of an eye. We really are so fortunate to have Claire still with us, there are many families out there who are not so fortunate,” she said.