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Australia Prepares for National Day of Mourning - 2002-10-18


Australia is preparing for a national day of mourning on Sunday as the country struggles to cope with the grief and shock caused by the bomb attack in Bali. Almost 200 people were killed on the tropical Indonesian island. For most Australians, a feeling of immunity from international terrorism has been destroyed.

Memorial services have been held this week across Australia, ahead of Sunday's national day of mourning.

The majority of the victims are thought to be Australian. As the grim task of identifying the dead goes on in Bali, survivors of the attack continue to arrive home.

Up to 20,000 Australians were on Bali at the time of the bombing Saturday. The island is a popular, and convenient, holiday destination for Australians.

Many have returned without friends and relatives, either killed in the blast or still listed as missing. Eric de Haart was on an end-of-season rugby tour in Bali. Six of his teammates are dead. "I didn't hear the first little explosion. I just heard, saw the second explosion, the big orange glow lit the sky and followed by a big mushroom cloud of smoke and then all the windows in the alleyway just started shattering," he said. "Something hit the side of my head and broke my glasses and then all of a sudden people just started running in sheer terror and panic."

Other survivors describe how a vacation to paradise turned in an instant into a trip to hell.

The formal identification of the victims could take weeks or even months to complete. Bodies are expected to be flown home in the coming days. Grief has touched every corner of this country.

"Our hearts are broken because he was just everything to us."
"He was our everything."
"We adored him."
He was our baby."
"Can't believe that she's not going to come and sit out there and have a glass of wine with me but she'll be there in spirit."

All the foreigners injured in the blast have been airlifted out of Bali to hospitals in Australia. Some were barely alive when they were dragged out of the ruins of the Sari nightclub. Doctor Peter Hertsch, a burns expert treating survivors in Sydney, said "it was very evident to us that we were dealing with burn injuries the like of which we've never seen here before and they're the sort of thing you would only see in a war-like situation. The horrible penetrating wounds from things like wood and shrapnel and tin."

Many survivors spent days trawling through Bali's hospitals and morgues looking for their friends and family. Despite the devastation, there have been signs that have softened the pain.

"They all had a peaceful look on their face so death must have been instantaneous, which provided me with great relief. I'm sure it provided the families with great relief," said Mr. de Haart.

On Sunday, special services will be held across the country as Australians remember an attack that has brought the isolated nation to the frontline of international terrorism. A minute's silence will be held at midday. The government also is considering a permanent memorial to the victims.

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