12 October 2002
Just after 11.00 pm on October 12th, 2002, two bombs ripped through Paddy’s Irish Bar and the nearby Sari Club in the well-known tourist area of Kuta on the island of Bali. The attack left 202 people dead from 21 countries, including 88 Australians. Hundreds more suffered appalling burns and other injuries.
Both bars, as well as the surrounding streets, were packed with tourists and locals when a suicide bomber inside Paddy’s Pub nightclub detonated a bomb in his backpack. Those who were able to escape fled into the street outside, but just twenty seconds later a second and much more powerful bomb exploded outside the Sari Club directly opposite Paddy’s Pub. As well as causing horrific injuries and death, several neighbouring buildings were destroyed and windows several blocks away were shattered.
Local medical services were not equipped to deal with a disaster of this magnitude and were overwhelmed by the number of injured, particularly burns victims. Emergency facilities were so sparse that some injured survivors had to be placed in hotel pools to ease the pain of their burns. Disaster recovery services in Australia were rapidly activated and many of the injured were flown to specialist trauma and burns units in Darwin and Perth.
Despite the horror of these terrorist attacks, most people are resilient and many were able to resume their normal lives after a while, with the help of caring family and friends. Nevertheless, the psychological impact for those involved is significant. Even for those with high levels of psychological resilience, such an event can shatter assumptions we hold about our personal safety and about the inherent ‘goodness’ of other human beings. The high levels of threat and loss of life, combined with the total unpredictability of the attack, are risk factors for the development of more significant problems such as depression and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In response to this need, services for survivors of the Bali bombing and their families were established across Australia to facilitate their recovery.