Bali blast: 190 dead

Rescue teams on Monday worked on the grim task of identifying hundreds of badly-burned victims of a powerful car bomb attack on the Indonesian resort island of Bali which killed at least 190 people.

As US President George Bush led world leaders in condemning Saturday’s attack, calling it a “heinous” act of terrorism, the State Department urged Americans to leave Indonesia. Some Europeans nations advised citizens to avoid Bali and public places in Indonesia. Indonesian officials are expected on Monday to reveal tightened security procedures in the aftermath of the deadly blast, the worst terrorist attack since the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.

Doctors at the Sanglah hospital on Bali said many of the dead from the attack on a packed nightclub could not be identified and appealed for overseas technological assistance in the identification process.

Television footage showed many of the wounded at the hospital, still looking shocked and dazed from the trauma.
One woman, her face disfigured by burns, flashed the V sign as she fought off television lights while being wheeled out of the hospital’s surgery room. Some 309 people, mostly foreigners, were injured, including 90 critically, in the blast which Indonesian officials have blamed on unknown terrorists.

“The bodies will remain at the hospital until we can identify them and send them to the respective countries. I don’t know how we are going to cope and we may need foreign help,” a doctor said. The explosion late Saturday destroyed the bars and nearby buildings in the popular tourist district of Kuta, triggering an intense blaze which burned for hours.

Many of the victims were Australians although Indonesians, Britons, Swiss, Germans, Swedes, Americans, Ecuadorans, Italians, South Koreans and South Africans were also among the dead or wounded.

Two other blasts occurred almost simultaneously on Saturday—near the US consulate in Bali’s capital Denpasar and at the compound of the Philippine consulate in North Sulawesi but there were no casualties.

The Indonesian media called the deadly blast a national tragedy and attacked the government for taking lightly the terrorist threat after the September 11 attacks blamed on the al-Qaida network.

“Until Saturday night’s blast, very few people in Indonesia had taken the threat of terrorism seriously,” the respected Jakarta Post said in a hard-hitting editorial. “This goes not just for the government, the politicians and major political parties but also the public, including the media,” it said.

The United States and other Western governments have been critical of Indonesian leaders for failing to crack down on Muslim militants with possible al-Qaida links, notably a group called Jemaah Islamiyah.

US ambassador to Indonesia Ralph Boyce said that while there were no claims of responsibility for the bombing, early indications pointed to the al-Qaida network.

President Bush said the attack was “designed to create terror and chaos.” Australian hospitals and emergency services struggled to cope with more than 100 injured young people rushed to the country from Bali in military transport planes and special charter flights.

In what might be the largest peace time evacuation in recent Australian history, four C-130 Hercules aircraft transported 186 wounded Australian so far and another two are expected to leave later on Monday, said Kirk Coningham, from the Australian embassy. Many of the injured were suffering serious burns.

“It will take quite a while for the full impact of this to be absorbed and assimilated by the Australian people,” Prime Minister John Howard said.

At the scene of the Kuta blast, about 300 metres of street looked absolutely devastated, buildings on both side of the road totally destroyed. Tight security was enforced, with policemen holding semi-automatic weapons, as investigators combed the ruins to look for clues.

Outside what was once the vibrant Sari Club, there was nothing standing with a crater 1,5-metres deep where the bomb went off and now a puddle of water.

Several wreaths were placed at the site filled with twisted metal, wrecked cars, blown off roofs, ripped metal sheets and other debris. - Sapa-AFP

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