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KUTA - Minutes before his popular Paddy's club was struck by a bomb here last Saturday night, I Gde Wiratha, 55, was in one of his hotels some 5 km away, holding talks on his company's plan to launch Bali's first airline later this month. At around this time too, his brother and business partner, I Made Wiranatha, was getting ready to leave to shoot Kuta's clubbing scene for the fledgling airline's promotional video for the launch on Oct 27.
The first of two aircraft of the newly set up Air Paradise International (API) were scheduled to arrive in the resort island for trial flights last Thursday. Another aircraft was supposed to leave for Bali from Australia on the day of the launch on Oct 27. But all these had been put off by the bomb that hit Paddy's at around 11.30pm that Saturday, followed seconds later by a massive car bomb that tore off the jam-packed Sari Club across the street.
Nearly 200 people, mostly tourists, were killed, and hundreds more injured, in the blasts and the fires that followed. Nine bodies had been found at the Paddy's blast site, although none of them were the club's employees. Only three of the 60 Paddy's crew working that night, suffered serious injuries, with one of them already discharged by the hospital - a fact that he attributed to a miracle.
Mr Wiratha said some of Paddy's customers might have been struck by the second blast as they were fleeing the club after the first explosion. Yet he said these numbers could have been higher, had the bombing occurred an hour or two later when the crowd would have been massive. 'If it happened at one or two in the morning, there could be over a thousand people in these bars,' he told The Sunday Times.
Crowds would usually pack the Kuta night clubs until around 2am before they move on to the famous Double Six or Gado-Gado discotheques which open until daylight. Both clubs are also owned by Mr Wiratha. Three of his hotels are located near the bombing site. One of them is the Bounty Hotel, hundreds of metres behind the Sari Club, where 53 of its all-Australian guests are missing.
During the chaotic moments after the blasts, this hotel was used as a safe refuge for victims before they were taken to the hospitals as it was the only hotel with lights from the generator. Bodies and injured victims, many without limbs, were strewn across the parking lot and the swimming pool area, he said. In one deadly stroke, the blast hit his business group's expansion plans.
In the immediate aftermath of the bombing, thousands of tickets booked for the API's Australia-Bali flights were cancelled, he said. His plans to operate another carrier, the Paradise Air Indonesia, to serve Europe, the United States and South-east Asia, next year, are also now on hold. The bombing also affected his plan to run a fleet of six cruise ships for eastern Indonesian next year.
Mr Wiratha, one of the handful of successful locals in the tourism industry on the island, appeared sad that the blast has hit his business empire that ranges from hotels, restaurants, nightclubs, garment company to cab companies, which he had built over the years from virtually nothing. But the businessman, who studied architecture at the Udayana University, is optimistic that tourists would be back holidaying in Bali in six months' time.
'We have shown the world that we are peace-loving people. 'Instead of retaliating against certain groups, we have been praying and helping the victims,' he said. 'With stepped up security, everyone would know that Bali is a safe place,' he added.



Posted in Terrorism @ 21 October 2002 by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink






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