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The Bomb that Destroyed an Economy - 2002-10-30


Terrorism takes its toll no matter where it strikes. Whether it’s a crowded movie theater in Moscow where Chechen rebels hold a crowd hostage, a sniper targeting men, women and children in the Washington, D.C. area, or Islamic extremists setting off bombs on the Indonesian resort of Bali, terrorism affects us all. Terrorism can also destroy an economy. When bombs went off in nightclubs in Bali, they killed more than 180 people, injured hundreds others, and damaged the livelihood of countless others.

These days Bali resident Iswyudi finds little joy in surfing the waves of the island's Kuta beach. “I feel really bad,” he says. “Usually I surf here with Americans, Australians, with all nations. Although we don’t know each other, we just say hello.”

Iswyudi is one of many residents of the small Indonesian resort island, trying to adjust to life after two bombs exploded in a tourist nightspot on October 12, killing and injuring hundreds of people. Most of the victims were Australian tourists.

Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer was one of the first government officials to view the bombing site. “What I’ve seen today is enough to break anyone’s heart. It’s a simply shocking sight,” he said.

In what is becoming an all too familiar pattern, an unthinkable act of violence is immediately followed by a community coming together in grief, and by untold acts of generosity. Local hospitals are receiving medical support and supplies from all over the world. And student volunteers are working around the clock, doing everything from distributing donated food to helping count the dead.

Balinese student Gaby Sutando wanted to help because she came close to being a victim herself. She left the nightclub just fifteen minutes before the bomb went off. "I’m here because I almost died so that’s why I just want to help them, just want to be part of them," she said.

But as the people of Bali cope with this tragedy, there is a growing concern about the exodus of tourists.

Terror has struck in the heart of Bali. And after the dead are buried and the injured treated, the people of this once-tranquil island must face the grim prospects of hard economic times ahead.

Christopher McClean, from the Bali Hotel Association, says that in the week following the terror attack, hotel capacity has dropped from 80 percent full to less than 10 percent. “The average man is going to find it very hard to get along. He’s going to find it very hard to survive,” he said.

And with travel warnings now in place from the United States and Australia, this trend could continue for at least a year.

Guda Sudiarsana, who works at a small shop that was destroyed by the bomb blasts, doesn’t know when he’ll be back to work. “The average man is going to find it very hard to get along. He’s going to find it very hard to survive. "In Bali they don’t have any, not any guests anymore. So, maybe I’ll go back to home again and become a farmer," he said.

Restaurants are mostly empty and the few tourists who remain, like Hans Van Belt, are keeping a low public profile. "We stay near the hotel because you can’t do a lot now because people are scared but the tourism is going to collapse here," he said.

And it’s not just the urban center that is experiencing the sudden economic collapse. Even upscale, secluded hotels that boast exclusivity and security have seen massive cancellations. The tourists are leaving Bali and according to Jean Claude Bamgad, President of the World Travel and Tourism Council, they won’t return until they are sure it’s safe. “One way is to make the governments and the industry even more aware about security. Our topic has to be security,” he said.

Bali can increase security at the airport, put more police on the streets and the beach, and the Government of Indonesia can crack down on suspected sources of terrorism. Yet it will take time for people to adjust to the new reality here: that in the wake of the worst terrorist attack since September 11, no place is safe. Until then, Iswyudi will be surfing alone.

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