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Bali seen as 'another 9/11'

BY SUSAN KIM | BALTIMORE | October 22, 2002

Loved ones unfound, once-crowded tourist spots deserted, innocence and feelings of invincibility shattered. For many, the Oct. 12 bombing in Bali was -- and is -- another Sept. 11.

Stories of survival and horror are still emerging in the wake of a massive bomb blast that ripped through Bali's entertainment district when it was crowded with tourists.

Members of Action by Churches Together (ACT), a global alliance of faith-based relief and response agencies, have been trying to restore a sense of hope in the area.

Bali residents are experiencing both sharp trauma and a "general climate of fear," reported ACT.

"The surrounding community is traumatized," ACT noted, "while their economic life is stopped...this created many problems of mental health and community fear."

The Synod of the Christian Churches in Bali, as well as other Bali-based ACT members, moved into action right after tragedy struck.

Within four days after the blast, a volunteer desk was set up to deal with the crisis. Trained volunteers helped 30 Indonesian families by offering them counseling, logistical help and accommodation assistance.

ACT members also helped evacuate bodies from the hospital to homes in Bali and Java. In some instances, faith-based groups also covered burial expenses. Local churches offered food to volunteers, families of the victims and hospital visitors.

Local ACT members continue to work with the Bali Hati crisis center, Church World Service and other organizations to focus on people's immediate and future needs.

Trauma counseling, community support and burn injury management programs will be offered. Other planned programs include long-term counseling as well as post-treatment physical and economic rehabilitation for injured people and their families.

For the wider community, ACT members are planning conflict transformation and mediation training.

Like post-Sept. 11 U.S. faith-based groups, church representatives in Bali have pinpointed some weaknesses in response. In an echo of weaknesses reported by U.S. Sept. 11 responders, ACT reported there was a "lack of coordination, no clear roles for volunteers, and a lack of skilled counselors to conduct trauma counseling."

Future programs will attempt to shore up these areas, ACT reported.

Recovery on the Indonesian island will be a long-term prospect. "The blast essentially wiped out the island's economy overnight. Tourists have left the island in droves, and people whose economic survival was based solely on tourism now face a bleak future," ACT reported.

On the first day of trading after the Bali attack, the Jakarta stock market dropped 10 percent. And the Indonesian rupiah, Thai baht, Singapore dollar, and Philippine peso all slid in value against the U.S. dollar.

Investment strategists say that all of Southeast Asia will feel the negative economic effects.

Many Australians are also considering the Bali blast as their Sept. 11. Most of the victims are believed to be Australians, marking the nation's worst single tragedy since World War II.

Australian loss of life in the Bali blast was roughly equivalent in a country of 20 million people to the losses in the Sept. 11 attacks for the U.S., a nation of 280 million.

Bali -- one of few affordable vacations for Australians -- is a magnet for Australian students on spring break, honeymooners and families. Nearly 250,000 Australians make the trip each year, and for many it's the only overseas trip they can afford to take.

Many Australians consider their country as traditionally uninvolved in conflict. A popular saying is that Australia has been involved in 19 wars -- but has started none of them. Australians never expected to be targets, and now some Australians have begun criticizing Prime Minister John Howard for attracting the attack by supporting President Bush's war against terrorism.

But over the weekend, as Australia held memorial services for more than 100 of its citizens feared dead in the Bali attack, Prime Minister John Howard said his nation remained committed to the war on terror.

Many of the bodies were burned beyond recognition.

Salvation Army representatives and local pastors were on hand at Australian airports as survivors straggled home, or as families waited hopefully for missing loved ones to fly in after all.

At least seven Americans are believed to have died in the nightclub bombing, though the remains of only two have been identified. About 45 Americans believed to have been in Southeast Asia Oct. 12 are still unaccounted for by their families.

This week officials were still telephoning families of missing Americans, asking them to send dental records or fingerprints to

Bali on the slight chance they might be among the victims.

Several other nations have large numbers of missing people.

At least 300 of the injured were still in critical condition this week.

Indonesian officials have blamed the Al Qaeda terrorist organization for the Bali attack. Indonesian police now believe three explosions destroyed two nightclubs in Bali last week that left more than 180 dead and scores injured.

Authorities also believe there was no link between a grenade attack on the office of the honorary U.S. consul in Bali and the nightclub attack, even though they occurred only minutes apart. Nobody died in the grenade attack. More than 100 investigators from Indonesia, Australia, the United States, Britain and other countries are still examining evidence.

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