Esin Atalay had always taken it for granted that the ground beneath her feet was a solid, steady thing.
That changed when a 6.9 magnitude earthquake ripped through her home in Indonesia’s Gili Islands, shaking the roof and splintering the walls.
For Ms. Atalay and her husband Philipp Messner, who left jobs in the Cayman Islands in 2015 to set up a restaurant and boutique hotel in idyllic Gili Air, the moment the quake struck was terrifying.
“The electricity failed immediately. It was pitch black and the place was shaking,” she said.
“As we were running for the door, it sounded like the whole place was falling down.”
For the rest of the night they huddled with 350 others, including the guests of their hotel, in a large open field as smaller aftershocks rippled through the island and rumors of a potential tsunami spread among the group.
The feared tidal wave never came and the tourists were evacuated the next day, leaving the couple and other business owners to survey the damage to the island.
For Ms. Atalay and Mr. Messner, the quake has closed their business indefinitely and could mean the demolition of some of their guest villas. But amid the devastation seen across the region, they feel lucky.
The earthquake, which centered on northern Lombok, left at least 321 people dead, 1,033 seriously injured and 270,000 people displaced from their homes.
Now the couple are trying to rebuild their business and do what they can to support their 19 staff members, many of whom lost their homes and are living in tents.
Mr. Messner, who worked for seven years as a server at Morgan’s restaurant, and Ms. Atalay, who worked as a dive instructor with Happy Fish Divers, left Grand Cayman three years ago to open their own restaurant and bar, Sharkbites, in the Gili Islands, a popular tourist destination off the coast of Lombok.
They had opened some luxury guest villas adjoining the property just months before the earthquake hit.
The couple, who plan to stay in Gili Air and rebuild, are currently camping out in the open air, sleeping on mattresses set up around a neighboring dive shop. Though their restaurant remains intact, the villas have been seriously damaged and concern about aftershocks from the earthquake is forcing people to stay away from buildings.
Ms. Atalay said her primary concern was for the wellbeing of their staff, most of whom live on the mainland, which was more severely affected.
“Our business is indefinitely closed until we can figure out what the best fix is for the buildings,” she said.
“We are staying focused on the families of the 19 people that we employ and are out of a job for the foreseeable future. We are helping them and their families first and foremost.
“We want to try to make a difference in the lives of people we know.”
She said many of the tourist businesses on Gili Air employ people from Lombok and are trying to do everything they can to get direct aid to their staff.
“Our restaurant is closed,” she said, “but we have been working with our suppliers instead of shipping food and supplies to us to go to our staff and their families in Lombok.”
The restaurant has also set up a GoFundMe page and is working with other businesses on Gili Air to get help to those that need it most.
So far they have raised nearly $3,000 to help provide tents, safe drinking water, baby food and other supplies.
Ms. Atalay said she was appealing to friends in Cayman and around the world as well as anyone who had visited Sharkbites to do what they could to help.
“If you came here and had a great meal at Sharkbites and want to kick in five dollars for the family of the chef that made it, that is great.”
In the long term, she said she hoped the restaurant, hotel and the island’s other tourism businesses would get back on their feet quickly, to enable the people of Lombok to start earning money again.
To contribute visit www.GoFundMe.com/aid-for-members-of-sharkbitesvilla.