The violent shaking of the magnitude 7 earthquake that struck Indonesia, killing more than 30, was "pretty terrifying", Justice Minister Andrew Little says.

At least 39 people died and dozens more injured when the quake hit Lombok, close to Bali, on Sunday evening.

Little was in the tourist island for a counter-terrorism meeting where the opening dinner was being held on the 12th floor of a hotel building.

"There was pretty violent shaking, people fell to ground, and it was fairly prolonged then there was a massive power outage," he told RNZ.


While Little had been in quakes before, the experience was a new one for many of the other delegates at the meeting.

"Because we were at the top of a building it was shaking quite a lot and a lot of things falling over. I was seated at the time, so I pretty much stayed where I was.

"By the time I thought 'This is going on a bit long' there were too many people under the table for me to join them but it stopped shortly after that."

The delegates - including Australia's Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton - were then evacuated down the building's stairs, where the extent of the quake's damage was revealed.

"The lower floors we went down there was more damage visible certainly than there was at the top."

For the delegates who hadn't been through quakes before it was likely "pretty terrifying", Little said.

Speaking from Lombok airport where he had been evacuated by local police, Little said he had not seen any signs of the people who had died in the quake and that there had not yet been major aftershocks.

Dutton told Fairfax the quake "was powerful enough to put us on the floor".


"We were up on the 12th floor, the lights went out and we were able to evacuate," he said.

"I think we were pretty lucky in the end.

"Emergency services responded really well. They were able to evacuate us to safe ground and we are very grateful."

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade said New Zealand's Embassy in Jakarta was responding to the quake.

"We have no information to suggest New Zealanders have been affected by this incident at this stage," the ministry said in a statement.

"There are currently 447 New Zealanders registered on SafeTravel as being in Indonesia and 9 registered as being in Lombok."

New Zealanders requiring consular assistance can call the New Zealand Embassy in Jakarta on (+ 62 21) 2995 5800

All New Zealanders in Lombok are advised to register their details on, follow any instructions issued by the local authorities and let their family in New Zealand know they are okay, MFAT said.

The quake, which came a week after another that killed a dozen people, triggered a brief tsunami warning and damaged buildings as far away as Denpasar on Bali, including a department store and the airport terminal, AP reports.

Sunday's quake came a week after another that hit east Lombok, killing 12 people. Photo / AP
Sunday's quake came a week after another that hit east Lombok, killing 12 people. Photo / AP

Video showed screaming people running in panic from houses in a Bali neighbourhood and vehicles rocking. On Lombok, soldiers and other rescuers carried injured people on stretchers and carpets to an evacuation centre.

The quake, recorded at magnitude 7.0 by the US Geological Survey, struck early Sunday evening at a depth of 10.5km in the northern part of Lombok.

"I was watching TV when I felt a big shake," said Harian, a Lombok woman who uses one name. "The lamp was shaking and people were shouting 'Get out.' I ran out into the dark because the power cut off."

The Bali and Lombok airports continued operating Sunday night, according to the director-general of civil aviation. There had been a half hour evacuation at the Lombok airport following the quake because the electricity went off. TV showed crying women consoling each other outside Lombok's airport.

A magnitude 6.4 quake hit Lombok on July 29, killing 16 people.

Like Bali, Lombok is known for pristine beaches and mountains. Hotels and other buildings in both locations are not allowed to exceed the height of coconut trees.

Indonesia is prone to earthquakes due to its location on the Pacific "Ring of Fire", an arc of volcanoes and fault lines in the Pacific Basin. In December 2004, a massive magnitude 9.1 earthquake off Sumatra island triggered a tsunami that killed 230,000 people in a dozen countries.