• IA

A backward glance

In the high season between June and October, our otherwise quiet little village resembles a beehive: it is full of activity and vigour. After all, a large part of the annual income that feeds the families has to be earned in these few months. In other years, one could feel the enthusiasm and joie de vivre of the Balinese in the hustle and bustle of the streets, beaches and restaurants. But this year everything was different.

Already the start into the high season was bumpy, since the volcano Agung, after a short rest period from February to March, began to erupt again in April. These were small, phreatic eruptions, but they were enough to make it into the international press again. From April to the end of June, the volcano erupted with almost strombolian regularity until, on June 28th, once more it produced a huge ash cloud that paralyzed the airport for hours. The temporary peak of the activity was on July 2nd, when for the first time it emitted large amounts of tephra and set the mountain flanks on fire. Since then the activity has decreased.

The high season could finally come and the tourists certainly did. Maybe a little less than last year, but they came. Until July 29th, when the earth trembled for the first time in Lombok. It was the most severe quake people here could remember so far, a 6.4, followed by some aftershocks, the strongest of which were 5.3 and 5.4. There was some superficial damage, a few moments of shock. A few holidaymakers interrupted their stay. Then the situation calmed down. What nobody knew at that point was that this was only a harbinger of the next, even stronger earthquake. It came on August 5th, the terrible 6.9 quake in which so many people on Lombok lost their lives. Only minutes later the tsunami warning reached our village. This night probably few of us will ever forget. And the earth simply didn't want to stop shaking: During the next days no less than 7 quakes between 5.0 and 5.9 were registered and many more of smaller magnitudes.

Now, more holiday guests left our region, which, due to the proximity to Lombok, was more affected than the rest of the island of Bali. Even our Balinese friends lacked their proverbial optimism. However, the worst was yet to come. Countless smaller aftershocks later, August 19th dawned. No less than 7 quakes between 5.0 and 5.8, at noon a 6.3 and in the evening another main quake of magnitude 6.9 were registered that day. Now even the strongest nerves were shaken. Several bookings were cancelled, frightened holidaymakers set out to look for quieter regions. Also, quite a few tourists had to be relocated because their hotel rooms had been damaged severly.

Since then, there have been countless quakes between 3 and 5, with a decreasing tendency. The worst is hopefully over now. Shaky nerves still fool us into registering small imaginary earthquakes, the locals can't help it any more than we do. Some still sleep outside because they have not yet been able to repair their houses. It will be quite a while before everything is repaired, but the spirits of life are slowly returning. The economic damage, however, is once again done: The high season was ended prematurely for the second time in a row.

PS: Our house volcano behaved very inconspicuously during this turbulent time, as if he knew that someone was stealing the show. Now, that the situation on the earthquake front has calmed down and he has got his audience back, he makes a new attempt: Since September 13th, the experts have been registering a greatly increased seismic activity, which, combined with the renewed inflation of the mountain itself, indicates that fresh magma is again making its way up to the crater. So, let's look forward to the next spectacular appearance of our volcanic diva....