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‘Just totally gone’: Canadian narrowly escapes after earthquake crumbles ledge on Indonesian volcano

Mackenzie Irwin sat on the edge of Mount Rinjani’s summit in Indonesia, as her guide captured the moment she came face-to-face with one of the “most incredible views” she has seen in her life. The guide snapped a photo of her as the first rays of the sun fell on the rim of the volcano.

As the 28-year-old Toronto native walked back to retrieve her phone, the ground beneath her started to violently shake. She looked back. The ledge she had been standing on seconds before was no longer there.

Canadian on Lombok volcano narrowly

escapes as ledge crumbles after earthquake

0

750

MALAYSIA

KM

INDONESIA

Jakarta

AUSTRALIA

0

15

KM

Mount Rinjani Peak

Lombok

THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: TILEZEN;

OPENSTREETMAP CONTRIBUTORS; HIU

Canadian on Lombok volcano narrowly escapes

as ledge crumbles after earthquake

0

750

MALAYSIA

KM

INDONESIA

Jakarta

AUSTRALIA

0

15

KM

Mount Rinjani Peak

Lombok

THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: TILEZEN; OPENSTREETMAP

CONTRIBUTORS; HIU

Canadian on Lombok volcano narrowly escapes

as ledge crumbles after earthquake

0

750

MALAYSIA

KM

INDONESIA

Jakarta

AUSTRALIA

0

15

KM

Mount Rinjani Peak

Lombok

THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: TILEZEN; OPENSTREETMAP CONTRIBUTORS; HIU

“[It] fell into the crater, into the inside mouth of the volcano,” she said. "Just totally gone.”

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Ms. Irwin was one of more than 500 trekkers caught up in the midst of a 6.4 magnitude earthquake that shook the Indonesian island of Lombok early Sunday morning. The earthquake killed 17 people, including an Indonesian student who was among the Mount Rinjani climbers. It triggered landslides on the mountain, and blocked the usual paths out for those trying to escape. The last of the trekkers stranded on the mountain were brought to safety on Tuesday, Agence France-Presse reported. Down below, buildings across Lombok were destroyed, with thousands of residents displaced and now living in tents.

Lombok is a popular tourist destination in Indonesia, known for its beaches and mountains with breathtaking views. The area is prone to earthquakes due to its location on the “Ring of Fire,” an arc of volcanoes and fault lines encircling the Pacific Ocean.

The first quake hit just after 6:30 a.m., Ms. Irwin said. According to Indonesia’s meteorology and geophysics agency, there have been more than 270 aftershocks recorded. The National Disaster Mitigation Agency said more than 680 people were stranded on Rinjani, an active volcano. Most are foreigners from 26 countries, including Thailand, Malaysia, Switzerland and France.

Ms. Irwin was with about 100 tourists on a plateau atop Mount Rinjani moments before the first shock. It was crowded, and many were taking photos to capture the sunrise. In the moment of the earthquake, Ms. Irwin said she felt “horrified.” The shock was violent, and “everyone just fell down, dropped to the ground,” she said. The ground beneath them crumbled into what felt like quicksand. Shortly after, the guides on the trek yelled for everyone to run, fearing the volcano may erupt as a result of the earthquake. Ms. Irwin said she witnessed some guides rush to help trekkers who were buried knee-deep in volcanic rocks.

“It was the most terrifying thing that has ever happened to me, by far," she recalled.

Canadian Mackenzie Irwin was among the hikers stranded on Mount Rinjani after an earthquake on the Indonesian island of Lombok.

submitted photo

The journey down was a harrowing 11 hours, as trekkers and their guides tried to navigate slippery volcanic rock quickly while carving a new path. The initial aftershocks were strong, Ms. Irwin said, which made escaping difficult. “Every time you’re running, all of a sudden there would be another [quake] and then you’d drop down to the ground, wait for it to pass and then get up and start running again.”

The hike down was around 25 kilometres, Ms. Irwin said, with a hectic first two hours where everyone was in “survival mode.” Despite this, tourists and guides were surprisingly calm, and encouraging each other as they tried to escape. “It was very nice seeing people from all over the world speaking all different languages just helping each other get out," she said. The guides in particular were “heroes," Ms. Irwin said, often stopping to dig trekkers out who had fallen to the side. Many of those guides are locals who lost their homes to the earthquake, Ms. Irwin said.

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When Ms. Irwin’s group arrived to the bottom of Mount Rinjani, they found that many buildings were reduced to rubble in the aftermath of the earthquake. Tarps and tents were set up across the island, Ms. Irwin said, as people were terrified to go back into their homes in case of another shock. Despite the tragedy , Ms. Irwin said she was in awe at of the locals' willingness to lend a helping hand to the tourists.

As she recovers from the harrowing escape in a nearby island, Ms. Irwin said she plans on returning to Lombok to assist the locals who lost their homes. She is set to begin her career as a lawyer in Toronto upon her return to Canada, maintaining she will “never be the same,” after this trip.

“Even with the earthquake experience ... the people here are amazing, they’re just so friendly and nice, so it’s been one of the best trips of my life,” Ms. Irwin said.

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