Survivors, families try to come to grips with Bali explosion

As toll rises above 180, Bush condemns blast as an act of terrorism

World urged to fight `menace'

October 14, 2002|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

BALI, Indonesia -- In the dark and the screaming chaos, said one survivor yesterday, it was sometimes hard to know whether the man who appeared to be running toward him through the flames was alive or dead.

"Like you look at their face, and you can't make anything out; there's nothing left," said Jared Kays, 23, a vacationer from London. "People were missing ears, people were missing limbs, their skin was peeling off."

On the morning after what may have been the deadliest terrorist attack since Sept. 11 last year, what remained of two discos on this sunny tourist island looked as if they had been bombed from the air instead of from the roadside.

The car bombing just before midnight Saturday sent fire raging through a dozen buildings at Kuta Beach, with its bars and dance clubs. It is one of the world's most popular vacation spots for surfers, backpackers and college students.

The death toll continued to climb yesterday, to at least 182, most of the dead being foreigners on vacation. A dozen of the 300 injured survivors were reported to be in critical condition, and 30 bodies were estimated still to be buried in the rubble.

Yesterday, the survivors described what seemed to be two explosions, the first small one sounding perhaps like fireworks; the next, seconds later, like an apocalypse.

"There was a noise," said Hanabeth Luke, 22, of Britain.

"We were all dancing away, some cheesy pop song," she said. "We stopped and looked at each other. `What was that sound?' We sort of laughed nervously and carried on dancing. And within five or 10 seconds, voom! Your feet were just sucked out from under you. I was lying on the floor. Everything was black."

Her friend shouted: "Don't panic! Don't panic!" she said. But she panicked and crawled for a sliver of light and survived.

Yesterday, friends and relatives wandered the dim corridors of the 770-bed Sanglah Hospital in Denpasar, the island's largest, looking for the missing. They hovered over the narrow beds in hot overcrowded wards, offering the only help they could by waving small straw fans.

Doctors murmured over bandaged patients with blackened faces, trying to determine who they were and where they were from.

Makeshift signs taped to the hospital's walls illustrated the difficulty of sorting the dead from the living.

Some were titled "Have you seen" and listed the names of missing people. Whenever one of these was found to have died, the name was crossed out and added to another list titled "Persons who have passed."

The names on that second list were identified as coming from Indonesia, Australia, Britain, Canada, Ecuador, Singapore, Germany, Sweden, France and the Netherlands. There were no American names on the list. The U.S. ambassador to Indonesia, Ralph L. Boyce, said that three Americans had been slightly injured and that none was killed.

Most of the victims appeared to be young people who had been trapped in the Sari and Padi discos near midnight Saturday night when a car bomb appeared to ignite gas cylinders, setting off an explosion that shattered windows for hundreds of yards around.

"A huge, massive flame erupted from the floor like a volcano," said Sonali Patel, 23, of London, who was in the Padi club. "Flames were pouring out of the floor. There was smoke everywhere."

Though investigators have only begun their work, diplomats -- and President Bush as well -- made no secret of their belief that this was the latest of a recent series of attacks linked to al-Qaida.

"On behalf of the people of the United States, I condemn this heinous act," Bush said yesterday in a statement. "The world must confront this global menace, terrorism.

"We must together challenge and defeat the idea that the wanton killing of innocents advances any cause or supports any aspirations. And we must call this despicable act by its rightful name: murder."

The U.S. Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia's capital, denounced the attack as "a despicable act of terror."

The explosion at the nightclubs came almost at the same moment as a smaller blast near the U.S. Consulate here that caused no injuries. Earlier Saturday, a suspected homemade bomb shattered windows but caused no injuries at the Philippine Consulate in the Indonesian city of Manado.

The day's attacks followed a half-dozen other bombings in Southeast Asia in the past three weeks. These included two in the southern Philippines that killed one American soldier and at least 11 Filipinos and a grenade explosion near a U.S. Embassy residence in Jakarta.

Saturday's explosions came three days after the State Department issued a worldwide alert for terror attacks. It was also the second anniversary of the bombing of the destroyer USS Cole off Yemen that was linked to al-Qaida and killed 17 sailors, adding to suspicions that the attacks are connected.

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