At least 187 people are dead and 200 are still missing after a powerful car bomb leveled a busy nightclub in Kuta Beach, Bali.
The bomb went off at the Sari Club at 11:00 p.m. on Saturday, October 10. Kuta Beach is a well-known lodging area for visiting surfers, with Uluwatu and Padang Padang less than 45 minutes away.
In fact, Kuta Beach has been likened to the Huntington Beach of Indonesia with a Quiksilver Boardriders Club, and Billabong and Volcom company stores found alongside dozens of other shops catering to the tens of thousands of visiting surfers and tourists.
According to CNN, the majority of the dead and wounded were Australians, but New Zealanders, Indonesian, German, French, British and American nationals are also believed to be among the casualties.
Steve “Webby” Webster, a 41-year-old Huntington Beach surfer, is among those confirmed dead. Fellow Huntington Beach surfer Steve Cabler, who was traveling with Webster, survived the blast with a separated shoulder and third-degree burns.
Marc Gajardo, a surfer who emigrated from England to Byron Bay, Australia, eighteen months ago, was killed instantly in the blast, reports The Times. His girlfriend, Hannabeth Luke, 22, was on the club’s second floor and escaped by jumping from a window.
The couple had been in Bali for ten days on a surfing holiday.
“I was dancing to Eminem, enjoying the flow, when I heard the first bang,” says Luke. “Many people stood still, then there was the second. It was an incredible force of wind and heat. Somehow I managed to climb out through the roof. I was in the street in a complete daze, yelling out my boyfriend’s name, but I had a strong feeling that he was dead. I now have to ship my boyfriend home to England.”
It is not known how many of the dead or missing are surfers, but it’s likely it’s more than a few.
A report on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation interviewed Colin Ross of Ulladulla, New South Wales, who was leading a surf trip at the time of the blast. According to Ross, only one of the three teenaged surfers traveling with Ross has been accounted for at this point. “It was a trip of a lifetime to come here to Bali,” Ross told ABC. “It was their first night here and they went out one night and that was the last time we saw them.”
Traumatized survivors paint a grim picture of the bomb’s aftermath. “I saw limbs lying on the ground,” New Zealander Richard Poore told Reuters. Another tourist, American Amos Libby, told the AP he felt himself lifted off his feet as he walked by the Sari Club just as the bomb detonated. “All the buildings in the vicinity just collapsed, cars overturned and debris from the buildings fell on them,” he was quoted as saying. “I have never seen anything so horrible. There were so many people, eighteen to twenty year olds, people in pieces all over the street.”
On Monday morning Indonesia’s defense minister Matori Abdul Djalil blamed al-Qaida and its extremist allies for the attack.
In the wake of the attack, the U.S. State Department has issued a travel warning for Indonesia. The state department has ordered the departure of U.S. Government personnel in non-emergency positions and all family members from Indonesia.
In addition the U.S. State Department warns U.S. Citizens to defer travel to Indonesia. “American citizens who travel to or reside in Indonesia should exercise maximum caution and take prudent measures such as avoiding crowds and demonstrations, keeping a low profile, varying times and routes for all required travel, remaining acutely aware of their immediate environment, and notifying the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in case of any change in the local security situation,” reads the Travel Warning.
Henry Morales, director of Wavehunters Surf Travel, Inc., an Oceanside, California-based travel agency catering to surfers, issued the following statement on October 17: “It is our opinion that surfers should exercise discretion and analysis in planning their future travels, and perhaps consider “safe havens” such as Samoa, Fiji, Tahiti, Hawaii and many venues in Latin America for their immediate plans until things cool down. It is also our opinion that the Maldives are still a safe destination for tourism. The Maldives is an isolated, island country which provides tight internal security by both airand sea and has no history of terrorism despite it being a Muslim country.”
According to Morales, Wavehunters had several of its customers in the Kuta Beach vicinity on October 10, including one individual who had been in the Sari Club earlier that evening. Fortunately, all its customers are safe and accounted for.
“It’s horrible,” says the president of a prominent apparel company. “The situation down there is completely chaotic, and it’s serious for both the economy in Bali and for the surf industry. That whole area is really tied to our industry. Those were surfers and kids down there. After September 11, America bounced back relatively quickly. In Bali it may be a different story. It may take a lot longer.”