182 killed, 332 hurt in Bali's explosions

By SUKINO HARISUMARTO  |  Oct. 13, 2002 at 7:01 AM
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JAKARTA, Oct. 13 (UPI) -- A series of explosions that rocked and then burned packed nightspots on the tourist island of Bali killed 182 people -- including victims trapped in the inferno from the United States, Canada, Australia, Japan and throughout Europe, authorities said Sunday.

More than 330 people were being treated for injuries in the vastly overburdened island hospitals.

"The indiscriminate, brutal and despicable way in which lives have been taken away on this occasion by an act of barbarity will, I know, deeply shock all Australians," Australian Prime Minister John Howard said. "The warnings of the last year or more that terrorism can touch anybody, anywhere, at any time have been borne out by this terrible event."

Officials at Bali's main hospital said the death toll in the Saturday midnight blasts is expected to continue to rise as more bodies are discovered in the debris and those most severely hurt succumb to their injuries.

"The Government of Indonesia strongly deplored the brutal and shameful bombings in Bali which caused many victims," President Megawati Sukarnoputri said in a brief news conference before flying to Bali.

She spoke to the Australian prime minister by telephone and was told a medical team was on its way in a military plane capable of bringing back 30 injured to Australia for treatment.

She said that according to the latest reports the death toll had climbed to 182 and 332 others were injured.

Megawati said the government welcomed the humanitarian aid offered by the Australian government.

At least seven members of a soccer club from Perth, Australia, were among the missing, according to the Voice of America. Australia's Qantas Airways was arranging special flights to ferry surviving Australian tourists home.

The emergency immediately overwhelmed the resort island's medical facilities, ill equipped to treat the serious burns suffered by many of the injured. The morgue was jammed beyond overflowing with bodies.

Meanwhile, Putu Putra Wisada, spokesman for Sanglah's hospital, said most of the dead were foreigners, many of them American, Canadian, French, German, British, Japanese and Australian.

The series of explosions went off simultaneously through areas popular with foreign visitors. Two of the blasts destroyed a restaurant and a pub in Kuta, Bali's well-known tourist spot, while another one went off about 100 yards from the U.S. consular building in downtown Bali's capital of Denpasar, police and eyewitnesses said.

Most of the dead had been burned beyond recognition when the flaming roof of the Sari Club collapsed on them in a fire apparently fed by escaping gas.

Officials declined to confirm immediately whether the blasts involved car bombs, saying the bomb squad was investigating. "It's still too early to say it came from car bombs," he said. But an engine block from a car was recovered, suggesting the rest of the car was destroyed by a blast.

A statement issued by the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta said the United States was offering "all appropriate assistance to the government of Indonesia to see that all responsible for this cowardly act faced justice."

The Embassy advised that it is "still trying to assess the number of American victims."

The attack, "comes on the heels of previous warnings of Americans at risk, and highlights the mounting threat to Americans wherever they are in Indonesia," the advisory said. "The embassy is currently re-evaluating the extent of its presence in Indonesia. Americans visiting or residing in Indonesia are advised to examine the necessity of continuing to remain in Indonesia."

In Washington, a State Department official said Saturday that the U.S. government was aware of the situation in Bali and that the matter was under investigation. A guard at the Indonesian Embassy in Washington said no staff members were available.

More than 200 people had been jammed into the Sari Club café, which was destroyed by the blast, an employee said. The club had been patronized mainly by foreigners.

In addition to destroying the cafe and restaurant, the blasts in Kuta also heavily damaged dozens of cars, shops and homes nearby, local residents said.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the explosions, the worst ever to hit Bali and one of the worst acts of apparent terrorism on record anywhere -- but part of a series to hit Indonesia since several churches were bombed in December 2000.

The Press Trust of India reported Sunday that a bomb had been concealed in a Kijang, a Jeep-like vehicle.

Indonesian officials have denied that radicals linked to Osama bin Laden's al Qaida network are active in Indonesia. But authorities in neighboring Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines assert that members of an Islamic militant group, Jemaah Islamiyah, are based in Indonesia. The group allegedly is seeking to establish a pan-Islamic state in Southeast Asia.

Local authorities were "selectively restricting" entrance to the resort island, including Ngurah Rai airport and seaports in Benoa and Gilimanuk that link Java and Bali, Suyatmo said.

Another explosion, believed to be from a homemade bomb, hit the Philippine consulate general in the North Sulawesi provincial capital of Manado, at 7 p.m. local time Saturday. A gate was damaged, but no injuries were reported and the incident may have been unrelated to the Bali explosions, timed to be simultaneous.

"The Indonesian government offered condolences and deep sympathy to the family of the victims -- both of the Indonesians and the foreigners -- from the brutal and uncivilized violence, against the religious teaching and moral values," Megawati said before departing to Bali to inspect the scene.

She said security authorities are working hard in order to "capture the perpetrators and bring them to justice," adding that the government called on the community to stay calm.

In Jakarta, top security minister Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said he was deeply concerned and said the explosions were the work of terrorists.

"I hope there is no more comments that the government invents stories about terrorists in Indonesia," Yudhoyono said. "Terrorists are alreeady all around us."

"What happened in Bali extremely hurts the image, not only of Bali but also of our country," he said. "That would seriously damage our economy," he said, adding that while the targets were foreigners, that in the end the Indonesian people would suffer.

Yudhoyono expressed hope that there should be a preliminary conclusion about responsibility for the blasts, but he declined to identify any suspects, saying "it could be committed by the Indonesians, it can be foreigners or could also be locals and foreigners."

"I'm shocked by the blast," Putu Wardana, a nearby resident said. "It never happens here ... . It is so secure," a sentiment expressed by a number of residents.

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