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Tuesday, 17 December, 2002, 12:12 GMT
Bali struggles to rebuild
Bali beach
Bali's tourist industry was devastated by the bombings

The two bombs were timed to cause the greatest possible damage.

A first bomb was detonated in Padi's Bar, killing the man carrying it.

Six seconds later a massive device, perhaps 100 kg or more left in a van, exploded outside on the street, killing those who had run out from the previous explosion, and destroying the Sari Club, which was packed with tourists.

The injuries were horrific, overwhelming Bali's main hospital.

Fire razes a nightclub after an explosion in Denpasar, Bali, Indonesia
The Sari nightclub was destroyed by the blasts
Many of the young backpackers we met were clearly traumatised by the attacks - some had lost close friends.

Confronting their grief was a profoundly emotional experience for all the journalists covering the tragedy.

Equally moving was the reaction of the Balinese.

Within hours the entire strip of beach resorts along the southern coast was plastered in messages of condolence from local businesses.

Every Balinese we met showed visible distress over the calamity which had happened on their island, and over the injuries and loss of life.

This was brought home to us in a heart-breaking speech by the kepala adat, or traditional leader for Kuta, where he tried to express his community's remorse to a room packed with journalists and TV cameras.

He broke down in tears, unable to continue.

The impact on Bali's tourist industry was immediate. Kuta's rowdy nightlife shut down, leaving a ghostly silence at night.

Child lays a memorial to the dead
Local people joined tourists to mourn the dead
The beaches emptied, and over the following week, so did the more exclusive resorts at Sanur and Nusa Dua.

One hotel I visited six days after the bombs had seen occupancy drop from 80% to 30%. A week later it was just 10%.

Thousands of local people who made a meager living selling drinks or souvenirs were out of work.

Many had come from other islands in Indonesia, and were packing up to go back to their villages within a week. Balinese taxi drivers were going back to work in the rice-fields for the first time in decades.

Financial ruin

In the factories of central Java hundreds of kilometres away, where many of the products sold to tourists in Bali are made, many more people lost their jobs.

Tourists were equally touched by the emotions shown by the Balinese, and by the extraordinary efforts they have made to make those who stayed behind feel safe and welcome.

Many tourists I spoke to did not want to leave - but feared their insurance would be invalid if they defied official advice and stayed on.

Map of Indonesia

The two million or so fun-loving, sun-worshipping visitors who normally come to this beautiful tropical island every year are accommodated with remarkable ease by the three million Balinese, who have somehow managed to keep their own unique, Hindu culture alive and thriving amid the tourist onslaught.

A month after the blasts, the people of Bali held their largest religious event in decades.

It was a cleansing ceremony, known as Pamarisudha Karipubhaya, involving hundreds of priests, conducting elaborate rituals, including animal sacrifices, to purge the bomb site of any evil spirits, and the re-balance their sense of harmony.

They are still waiting for the tourists to come back, though numbers are slowly creeping up.

Because of its impressive tourist infrastructure, and its natural beauty, and most of all because of the determination of its people, within a few months Bali probably will recover.


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