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Early Sunday morning, a 6.9-magnitude earthquake shook Lombok Island in Indonesia. At least 98 people were killed, and hundreds injured, in the massive quake — the second to rock the island in a week. (During the 6.4-magnitude quake last Sunday, July 29, more than a dozen people lost their lives.)
According to the BBC, the popular Gili Islands and the tourist hotspot, Bali, were also badly hit by Sunday’s earthquake, leaving hotels damaged and travelers stranded without access to either electricity or power. Since the earthquake struck Lombok, more than 130 aftershocks have been recorded. A minor tsunami (just over one foot high) surged along the northern edge of the island.
Tourism minister Arief Yahya said that airlines were being forced to accommodate change requests from travelers, and that additional flights were being added to and from Lombok (LOP) and Bali (DPS). Lombok’s main airport will be open without pause for 72 hours to satisfy the demand of travelers who are cutting their trips short.
In the Ring of Fire
It certainly feels as though seismic activity in Indonesia is on the rise. In November, Bali’s Mount Agung volcano erupted, filling the skies with ash and forcing Denpasar’s Ngurah Rai International Airport (DPS) to close. TPG himself was left stranded during the eruption.
But the Indonesia archipelago spans the so-called Ring of Fire, and thus the area is always vulnerable to relatively frequent volcanoes, tsunamis and earthquakes.
According to the USGS, the Java region — where the earthquake took place — is a “tectonically active margin” with “nearly continuous deep seismicity.”
Ultimately, travelers interested in visiting should be appropriately cautious — but not dissuaded from visiting.
“As with any potential natural disaster, the most important thing is to stay informed of the situation prior to your trip, and how it will affect your travel plans,” travel industry expert Thomas Spagnola, of CheapOair, told TPG.
When traveling to a destination that’s prone to natural disasters, like Indonesia, be sure to subscribe to push notifications from your airline, and consider checking local media for any news prior to departure.
Another thing to consider? Travel insurance. “Many travel insurance policies have coverage for natural disasters, including earthquakes,” TravelInsurance.com co-founder Stan Sandberg told TPG. “In order for travelers to have any coverage, however, travel insurance must be purchased prior to the event taking place. Once a natural disaster occurs and is a known peril, travel insurance is no longer available for that event.”
Even if you already have a trip to Indonesia planned, it’s not too late to purchase travel insurance. Sandberg said that, in fact, following the Lombok earthquake, “it does appear that there was a definite reaction.” Sandberg described an uptick in purchases for travel insurance for trips to Indonesia in August starting on the 4th.
Travelers with existing trip bookings should also check directly with their hotel to make sure it wasn’t impacted during the quake (as The Wall Street Journal pointed out, many hotels closed in Lombok because of the lack of electricity and, in some instances, damage).
It also doesn’t hurt to reach out to your airline. “[Contact] the airline as soon as possible, should you start to have concern about your upcoming trip,” Spagnola said. “There will be thousands of people trying to change plans and find flights available.”
Based on the situation, Spagnola explained, airlines could also change their policies, depending on “the behavior of the seismic activity, and whether or not they consider it a risk.”
Know before you go.
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