The Lombok earthquake was indeed a traumatising experience to residents and tourists on Gili Air when it occurred on 5 August 2018. Even to locals, who aren’t unaccustomed to tremors once every often, the sheer magnitude of this specific quake (magnitude-7.0, to be exact) was something to behold.
But why are earthquakes so common in this part of the world?
The Pacific Ring of Fire
Gili Air, together with the other Gili islands, Lombok and Bali, lies in the middle of what is known as the Pacific Ring of Fire. This horseshoe-shaped area in the basin of the Pacific Ocean is associated with a number of volcanic arcs, plate movements and volcanic belts, which lead to the occurrence of about 90% of the world’s earthquakes. On Gili Air alone, roughly 5000 earthquakes occur annually, albeit most not as powerful as the earthquake which occurred in the north of Lombok.
In the days following the quake, the Indonesian Agency for Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics released a statement, which said that, based on data from the two biggest quakes that the area experienced, including the magnitude-7.0 earthquake, it is suggested that these were the result of a 200-year cycle of Back-Arc Thrust Flores activities. This means that the earthquakes are driven by a thrust fault mechanism at the back-arc system.
Earthquakes are notoriously hard to predict before they occur, and as such, residents of countries that are located along the Pacific Ring of Fire (including many parts of South America, the United States, Russia, Japan and even Antarctica) have learnt to live with their rumbling compatriots.
The island of Gili Air, for all its beauty and natural splendour, has opted to keep itself as close to its natural roots as possible, and as such, buildings are not constructed too closely together, which left lots of open space where residents and tourists could retreat and stay safe immediately following the earthquake.
The three to four weeks that saw the energy diffusion and aftershocks have passed, and although Gili Air is still shaken by a tremor every now and then, things are slowly returning to normal, and the repair and construction of damaged buildings started almost immediately after the quake.
We urge visitors who were planning to visit the Gilis, neighbouring Bali and Lombok to please still consider dropping by. Your stay helps to get businesses back on their feet quicker than they would be without it. The hospitality of the locals is a continuing endearing quality of visiting this area with its pristine beauty.
Of course we can’t guarantee that another earthquake won’t occur in future, but we trust that the end of this cycle will make another big one less likely in the near future. And if the tragic recent event is an indication of anything, it is that the people of Gili Air, Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno and Lombok get up very quickly after falling down.