A Blackpool couple were caught up in the chaos which hit Indonesia after a massive earthquake struck while they were on holiday.
Lewis Sowerby and Tasha Holmes were enjoying a summer break on one of Indonesia’s tropical Gili islands when a magnitude 6.9 earthquake shattered the region on Sunday, August 5.
The disaster, which had an epicentre around northern Lombok, left more than 400 people dead, more than 1,000 seriously injured, and around 270,000 people homeless, with the death toll still expected to rise.
Lewis and Tasha were among thousands of tourists desperately trying to get away from the Gilis, three popular holiday islands which were plunged into emergency mode.
They had to catch a boat to get to the main island of Lombok, where the airport was, but this was not so straightforward.
The couple said the disaster brought out the best – and the not so best – in the islanders as scores of frantic people, including themselves, were exploited by some locals.
But Lewis, who works as a teacher, wants to raise funds and awareness of the disaster to help those affected.
Lewis, who suffered cuts to his legs from falling debris, said: “We knew before going to the Gili islands that they weren’t policed and were pretty much self running islands.
“When the tsunami warning came, half the locals left in their boats and half stayed – and we cannot thank the ones that stayed enough.
“The island was a mess, buildings were gone, power lines were left hanging, making horrific noises.
“At the port it was a mess, every man for himself to get on boats.
“We fully understand that the rest of Lombok was a mess, so getting support boats would be difficult, but some locals of Lombok did see an opportunity.
“The boats were over-crowded and they charged people a lot of money to get on them.
“We paid 25 times the amount of money each to get on a local’s boat than we did to get to the island.
“Back on Lombok we understand that taxi drivers were so busy helping sort out the damage that we had to flag down a farmer’s truck, and a group of us piled in the back, paying £400 between us, which is beyond extortionate over there, more than a year’s wage for most.
“They even tried to charge £50 for a baby to get on.”
From there, the couple managed to get to the international airport to catch an unsheduled flight home – they had to cut short their dream holiday by two weeks to get home safely.
But even then they were not home and dry.
The pair and another couple they met up with were forced to sleep rough in the airport for a couple of days, and were so exhausted they had to be woken up or they would have missed their flight.
The couple finally made it home late on Thursday night last week.
Lewis says he hopes to be able to help the stricken islanders and draw attention to their plight.