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Volunteers Help Manage Crisis in Bali Following Bomb Attack - 2002-10-18

Officials say at least 180 people died and hundreds of others were injured in the deadly bombing at a popular tourist area on the Indonesian island of Bali. What is not known is how much more death and heartache there might have been, were it not for dozens of volunteers who helped coordinate things in the chaotic hours after the attack.

Of the handful of hospitals and clinics in the Balinese capital of Denpasar, it was Sanghla Hospital that became the crisis center in the aftermath of Saturday's bombing.

Balinese doctors and nurses were quickly overwhelmed by the huge number of patients. Distraught relatives and friends of the missing had no way of knowing how to find their loved ones.

Into the breach stepped dozens of volunteers, tourists, local residents and businesses, diplomats and vacationing doctors.

Melina Caruso is an Australian tour operator. She coordinated and posted lists of the missing, the injured, and the dead. "This is missing people. These are people, that we went round the wards, there have been a team of volunteers that went around the wards -- and they've said, I'm missing so and so. I was with so and so. We've put their names up here. We've had people come in from other hospitals and saying, we still can't find other people," she says. "We have found other people are in other hospitals, so it's been great." Ms. Caruso says she is not the only one who helped out. "There are a lot of people here, expats who live here, people in tourism. We've got supplies coming, we've got towels coming, sheets from hotels. We've just set up a point here. We've got doctors here, Sydney doctors that were on holiday and who are down here, German doctors, working with the Indonesian doctors," she says.

Briton Alison Schmidt lives in Bali, and ordinarily works for an environmental organization. While coordinating care at the hospital this week, she has heard stories of the twists of fate that saved some people and cost others their lives. "There's a taxi driver, his car was completely blown up," she says. "He died instantly but the two women at the back were safe. There's another guy who came in, he lost his wife, he lost his daughter. They were out celebrating their birthdays and [having a women's night out] as well."

Expatriates were not the only ones helping. Scores of Indonesians also pitched in. Hotel owner Made Wendra was at home, a few hundred meters away from the bombing site. Mr. Wendra says 50 meters up the road he saw tourists, and women crying. People started asking him for help to take them to the hospital. When he saw taxis nearby he got the drivers to take people to the hospital. Mr. Wendra says he also volunteered his two pick-up trucks to send people to the hospital. The effort made by the volunteers earned the praise of the Australian Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, who visited Bali several days after the bombing. "I want to say is how much I appreciate the enormous amount of work that our consular staff here in Bali and our embassy staff in Jakarta have done and also to pay tribute to the volunteers who showed very much the spirit of the Sydney Olympics by coming here and assisting the consulate," he said. "A lot of the Australians who lived here have come in and helped in an appallingly difficult situation to deal with. And I don't think any of it would have been possible, at least to the extent that the job has been done, without the support of those people."

The government of Australia sent medical supplies to Sanghla Hospital immediately after the bombing. It evacuated seriously injured Westerners to Australia, and said it would also be airlifting injured Indonesians to Australia for medical treatment.