Children pitch in to help with Bali bomb victims

Children in school uniforms and many tourists are among the scores of volunteers helping Bali’s stretched medical staff with the grim task of handling badly-charred corpses and treating injured victims of the bomb attack.

Disrupting their holidays or their jobs, many jumped into taxis and headed to hospitals to offer their services after Saturday’s blast which killed more than 180 people and injured many more.

Five days after the explosion, the volunteers now number in the dozens and hospital officials are complaining they should be more organised.

They staff telephone hotlines, answering queries from relatives and journalists who have descended on the island, man a “coffee corner”, handle donations, show directions as well other tasks from the mundane to the grisly.

The most gruesome task is handling the charred and mangled remains of the blast victims in the overcrowded morgue of Sanglah hospital in the Bali capital Denpasar. The bodies are placed in refrigerated containers for the night and are carried back to the morgue during the day for identification by relatives.

For some volunteers, it has meant a loss of innocence and a rude awakening. Thirteen-year-old Max Lewis, of Bali’s private Dyatmika school, worked in the overcrowded morgue on Wednesday, helping put ice into the bodybags to keep the corpses from decomposing.

“We put ice on the bodybags.
We carried the bodies sometimes,” the boy said after taking a break in the morgue’s courtyard, where dozens of plyboard coffins are piled up.

“We came here just to help. I don’t think they have enough people so we volunteered,” said Lewis who was still in his green and white school uniform. “I’m not afraid… I watch too many war movies.”

His friend, Gupa Wijaya (14) had also been into the morgue while Abu Rizal Fajri (13) is waiting his turn.

Asked if his parents gave permission, Fajri said: “My dad told me to come here… I think it’s a good thing to help people,” although he admitted that he was a “bit afraid.”

An English instructor at a university who identified himself as Nyoman volunteered as a translator, while medical interns worked round the clock. Caterina Candido, (24) of Verona, Italy had a tour of duty Wednesday to staff the information box at a designated “crisis centre” in the hospital together with her boyfriend.

Arriving in Bali on September 9, she disrupted her holiday to enlist. “I love the Balinese people,” said Candido, a student at the academy of arts at Italy’s Academia Cegnerole. Helen Flavel, a marketing director from Australia who is also a qualified bereavement counsellor, was also on vacation here when she was asked to help deal with grieving relatives.

Jan Mantjika (62) a long-time Bali resident who operates a tour business, was accounting for members of her tour group when she discovered that relatives of the Indonesian victims had been receiving little help or did not know what to do.

So the North New Zealander volunteered her services along with her friend Sanita Newson to help local families because they speak the local language.

“Most Indonesians are afraid to ask for help,” said Newson.

Mantjika said most relatives of the Indonesian dead or injured came from other islands of the vast archipelago and needed money for food and accommodation. They also have no grief counsellors.

Natalie Pouliout (26) from Montreal in Canada, has a background as a paramedic and was among the early volunteers. “Whoever did this (bombing) should see these,” she said, pointing to the bodybags.

- Sapa-AFP

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