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Corpses Pile Up in Bali Bombings

October 14, 2002

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BALI, Indonesia (AP) _ Handmade coffins were piled three high behind the hospital morgue Monday, and the scent of freshly-cut lumber mixed with the stench of powerful disinfectants and the smell of rotting corpses.

Inside, a small army of volunteers _ tattooed backpackers in flip-flops, Balinese college students, a local Lions Club chapter _ were trying to sort out the lives, and deaths, of nearly 200 people killed when one of this resort island’s most popular nightclubs was obliterated by a car bomb Saturday night.

With local hospitals overwhelmed by the scale of the disaster, Bali’s people came to help.

``You have to do something,″ said Agung Suryanata, a 29-year-old Balinese management student who showed up at Sanglah Hospital with more than a dozen classmates, prepared to take a turn on the night shift carrying out bodies.

For the time being, though, he was doing a lot of standing around.

``We’re just confused about what to do,″ he said, looking at the swirl of humanity. ``Nobody says do this or do that.″

It wasn’t really clear just how it was working at Sanglah, but it was working, a do-it-yourself morgue and information clearinghouse just where it was needed most.

The volunteers did everything from gathering descriptions of missing people to picking up used rubber gloves, to carrying out bodies, wrapped in heavy yellow plastic and iced to slow decomposition.

Officials said most, if not all, the seriously injured had been flown elsewhere, many to Australia, Hong Kong and Singapore.

By Monday, most of the remaining victims in Bali were either dead _ though only a few dozen of the more than 180 believed killed had been positively identified _ or were slightly injured.

Still, there was plenty to do.

``We clean rooms of rubbish ... We serve coffee. We carry body bags to the refrigerated container. We do anything that they tell us to,″ said Mark Parthezius, 24, who was volunteering with his parents. The family, Australians, have been living in Bali for 10 years.

``I am very tired,″ said his mother, Nanette. ``I spent the whole day matching photographs to their badly burned-out faces. It was very draining mentally.″

For some volunteers, working at the hospital was a personal burden.

In the parking lot, taking a break from the horror of the morgue, an Australian man stared blankly at the building.

He was there for a co-worker who’d been around the destroyed hangout, the Sari Club, the night of the explosion. But since only a small group of colleagues knew he was missing, and were unsure of his fate, he didn’t want to give his, or his coworker’s name.

``He’s not accounted for,″ the man said, still staring at the morgue. ``So we have to try to find him.″

Asked about the scene inside, where, until Sunday dozens of corpses had been rotting with little protection from the heat, he answered simply: ``It’s not great.″

By Monday, a refrigerated truck had been brought in, and a mobile generator to keep it cold, and tons of ice were piled shoulder-high just outside the morgue’s door.

``The hospital is clearly overwhelmed,″ said John Wilkinson, a volunteer at the Australian consulate helping relatives of the missing. ``They are not used to seeing the numbers of dead and injured ... They were flooded in the wee hours of the night with dead people.″

A few hundred yards away, other volunteers were overseeing growing, hand-printed lists _ the dead, the injured, the missing, the evacuated.

Faxes and photocopied signs were hung up, aching calls for help: Dan Miller who ``was last seen at the Sari Club on Saturday night,″ his poster says, and Kristen Curnow, whose photograph shows a smiling young woman with shoulder-length hair.

``Have you seen this boy missing from Sari Club?″ another asks. ``His name is Danny Lewis. Please phone his family.″

One volunteer was quizzing people on whether they could help identify particular corpses.

``Did she have a belly button ring?″ she asked a man who was able to offer vague information on a woman he’d seen. ``Because we have a woman in the morgue with a belly-button ring.″

With such grotesque statements suddenly normal, the bombing destroyed the fantasy Bali remains to many, as the ideal island paradise. Thousands of tourists have already fled the island and more are preparing to leave.

``I might have to leave Bali and go back to Jakarta,″ said Edyson Manurung, a hospital volunteer and professional drummer who has lived six years in Bali. ``I love it here, but there is no job as a musician. The cafes and bars are empty. I can’t stay and it breaks my heart.″

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