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Indonesian Victims' Families Face Lack of Answers

October 17, 2002|Ching-Ching Ni | Times Staff Writer

KUTA, Indonesia -- Aldo Kansil lies in the intensive care unit of Sanglah Hospital with severe burns to his face, back, hands and legs. No one can spare the time to tell his anxious family whether he will recover.

"His condition is much worse than I thought," said one of his sisters, Sisca Rompas, 35, who flew in from Jakarta, the capital. Like many of the families of the local victims, all she can do is hope for the best.

Terrorists may have targeted tourists, but the wounded foreigners have been airlifted to safety. There has been little information for Indonesians, so victims' relatives have come here hoping to find out what happened.

This Balinese hospital was never designed to deal with an event like the bombing Saturday night that killed nearly 200 people and injured hundreds of others. It can handle only about 10 bodies at a time. Now, 183 unidentified bodies or sets of human remains crowd the facility. Until new freezers arrived Tuesday, the overflow of victims spread onto the floor.

Nor can the hospital deal with the hundreds of relatives. Dozens of families have camped out in the hospital's outdoor corridors, surrounding themselves with boxes of drinking water, food and changes of clothes. They have staked out makeshift visiting areas against walls. They face overburdened medical facilities and get little information.

Nyomann Manis' husband, Gde Tanggal, was a security guard at the Paddy Club, the Irish pub across from the Sari Club, both of which were destroyed by the car bomb.

"He was working the 8:30-to-3 a.m. shift," said Manis, a mother of two. "He was standing in front of the gate. He's burnt in the face and arms.

"After I heard what happened I lost the strength to do anything. I just collapsed."

Now she must rely on the support of her husband's 10 brothers, who either clean hotel rooms or sell fish at the markets. All of them took turns on a straw mat outside the emergency care unit.

"We became a victim in this," said Nyomann Sping, a brother.

Inside, volunteers say the medical conditions are rough.

"They are performing miracles here with the little that they've got," said Lyn Man, an Australian volunteer. "But they need the expertise coming from the West to make sure they can survive."

"One girl just died 10 minutes ago," said Renee Cogdil, an American who lives in Bali. "There's a plane here to take her out, but she couldn't hold on." Her name, Ibu Endang, just got crossed off the hospital's list of injured patients. Only 32 names remain.

Locals such as Gusti Madita and his 12 relatives are desperate for answers. They've been sleeping outside the morgue and examining the dead bodies every day, hoping to find his daughter, Gusti Ayu Kartini, 34.

"She worked at Paddy's for 15 years," her father said. "She worked every day except Sunday."

He doesn't know where she is. He told the hospital staff his daughter wore a small diamond wedding ring and has a gap between her teeth. Every day they let him search among the dead. Every day he finds nothing.

American doctor Arthur Sorrell is a fourth-year resident in emergency medicine at UCLA Medical Center. He arrived last Thursday to teach the local doctors about emergency medicine. Instead he got an education on the scale and limits of local medical care.

"We see multiple trauma in UCLA, but I've never seen mass traumas where there are literally hundreds of victims," Sorrell said.

The small clinic where he came to teach had only seven beds. That night more than 60 victims showed up. The doctors had to choose who had a better chance of survival and send them off to a hospital with surgeons and intensive care units.

It was hard to treat so many. After Australian doctors arrived at Sanglah Hospital, they had to find and concentrate on treating their own nationals.

Cogdil's Balinese friend Deasey Williams will have a better chance than those left behind. She was flown Wednesday to Australia because her husband is an Aussie.

Williams was on the second floor of the Paddy Club near the disc jockey's booth when the bomb exploded. She didn't realize she had been hurt. She was helping other people. Then she felt the heat on her body. She jumped into a pool. Someone pulled her out and whisked her to the hospital.

"They took all the charred skin from her body," Cogdil said. "She had hair down to her hips. It was burnt. We had to shave her bald. She was a beautiful girl."

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