A Dunedin couple were among the thousands of tourists caught up in the confusion and panic as they waited to be evacuated from a small island near the coast of Lombok, after the powerful 6.9-magnitude earthquake struck on Sunday.

Trevor Deaker and his partner Mark Borrie were on holiday on the island of Gili Trawangan, just northwest of Lombok, when the earthquake struck.

After the initial earthquake, further aftershocks - including one just 1km off the coast of the island - caused further destruction, toppling buildings and causing injuries and deaths.

After sleeping on the beach, the couple joined thousands of other tourists packed on to the island's beaches waiting to be evacuated.

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Deaker described the beach as almost ''riotous'' as people tried to force themselves on to boats travelling to Lombok.

''We watched people trying to climb on to a boat and then watched as they were literally kicked off these already overloaded boats.''

An Indonesian search and rescue team looking for victims at a collapsed mosque following an earthquake in Lombok Island, Indonesia. Photo / Getty Images
An Indonesian search and rescue team looking for victims at a collapsed mosque following an earthquake in Lombok Island, Indonesia. Photo / Getty Images

They both decided it was safer to retreat to backpackers accommodation run by a New Zealander until the situation at the beach had calmed down, he said.

''Those first boats were heading to Lombok and we didn't want to go there. That's where the epicentre was; we wanted to go to Bali.''

At 2am, they were told the last boat of the day was heading back to Bali so the two men made a ''mad dash'' back to the beach.

''We really lucked in and managed to get on that boat and once we were on, the Indonesian authorities were very good to us ... It was just getting on a boat in the first place which was difficult.''

They were now safely in Bali and would fly back to New Zealand in the next few days.

Indonesian authorities estimated at least 2700 people had been evacuated from the Gili islands since Monday.

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