‘I’LL NEVER FOR­GET THAT DAY’ Bali bomb­ing sur­vivor An­drew Cs­abi shares his haunt­ing story

An­drew Cs­abi, from the Gold Coast, was in­side the Sari Club when the bombs went off. Here he shares his haunt­ing story

WHO - - Content - By Kee­ley Hen­der­son

It was a hot, balmy night on the In­done­sian is­land of Bali and the main party strip in Kuta Beach was in full swing as rev­ellers let their hair down over a few drinks. But at 11.07pm lo­cal time on Oct. 12, 2002, a ter­ror­ist who had snuck into Paddy’s Bar one minute ear­lier det­o­nated the sui­cide vest he was wear­ing, which was packed with 5kg of TNT.

Twenty sec­onds later, a white Mit­subishi van car­ry­ing 700kg of ex­plo­sives oblit­er­ated the nearby Sari Club.

The force of the blast ig­nited a huge blaze and hun­dreds of peo­ple were trapped in the rag­ing in­ferno when the club’s thatched roof col­lapsed.

Two hun­dred and two peo­ple died in the tragedy – in­clud­ing 88 Aus­tralians – and more than 300 peo­ple were in­jured.

An­drew Cs­abi, from the Gold Coast, was in­side the Sari Club when the bombs went off. De­spite be­ing gravely in­jured, he man­aged to crawl through the wreck­age, bro­ken glass and twisted metal to find help.

“I was un­con­scious for two or three min­utes,” Cs­abi says in an ex­clu­sive in­ter­view with WHO.

“When I woke up, it was like be­ing in an oven. The heat was just in­cred­i­ble; my skin was burn­ing. It was dirty, filthy, smelly.”

He tried to stand up, but his left leg and the toes on his right foot had been blown off.

“I’m just look­ing down at my body and it’s a man­gled mess. I was in shock. There was blood, bod­ies, limbs, peo­ple ev­ery­where. Hys­te­ria. It was sur­real, some­thing no hu­man can be pre­pared for.

“I had to get away from the heat so I started crawl­ing. I crawled through peo­ple, over peo­ple. There was a girl

stand­ing there and she was like a flame tree. Her clothes were on fire.”

De­spite drift­ing in and out of con­scious­ness, Cs­abi some­how man­aged to make it out of the club. Once out­side, he fell into the crater which had been left by the car bomb. An off-duty Aus­tralian sol­dier, An­thony Mckay, rushed to Cs­abi’s aid.

“He saw me scrap­ing my­self out of the club by my fin­ger­nails. He dragged me out of that crater and down a laneway where we laid down for a cou­ple of hours.”

There was a crowd of peo­ple tak­ing refuge there and Cs­abi asked some­one to tourni­quet his leg: “An­other guy held a T-shirt in­side my right knee and ban­daged my toes,” he says.

Cs­abi breaks down as he de­scribes the hor­ror sur­round­ing him.

“I could hear peo­ple scream­ing and cry­ing and moan­ing. I can’t for­get the noise of peo­ple scream­ing in pain and agony. I just lay there qui­etly be­cause I thought I was go­ing to die.”

Lo­cals and tourists who es­caped the blast flocked to the Sari Club to help those trapped by the blaze. But they couldn’t get close be­cause of the in­ten­sity of the flames.

There were many re­luc­tant he­roes that night. Syd­ney man Erik de Haart lost count of the num­ber of peo­ple he res­cued from the rub­ble of Sari Club, but he is still haunted by those he couldn’t save.

“I heard three girls cry­ing and I looked, and a sec­tion of the roof prob­a­bly eight to 10 me­tres across had fallen down … they were call­ing out and cry­ing for some­one to help them and I had to make a de­ci­sion.

“My heart was telling me these girls needed me and my gut in­stinct was telling me it was a fool­ish thing to do be­cause I could never sur­vive it,” he ex­plained to SBS show In­sight in 2016.

Ca­su­al­ties were rushed to Sanglah Hospi­tal – 15km away – by lo­cals in cars and on mopeds. Blood pooled in the hall­ways of the hospi­tal and the smell of burnt flesh filled the wards. The fa­cil­i­ties were wholly in­ad­e­quate to deal with such a large-scale dis­as­ter and staff were com­pletely over­whelmed. Des­per­ate rel­a­tives of the miss­ing flocked to the hospi­tal in the hope of find­ing them, and set up boards with de­scrip­tions of their loved ones. “This is the worst act of ter­ror in In­done­sia’s his­tory,” In­done­sian Po­lice Chief, Gen­eral Da’i Bachtiar, told AP.

An elite team of ex­perts on dis­as­ter vic­tim iden­ti­fi­ca­tion, forensics, in­ves­ti­ga­tion, in­tel­li­gence and bomb ex­plo­sions from the Aus­tralian Fed­eral Po­lice was flown to Bali in an RAAF Orion at 6.30pm the next day.

The evac­u­a­tion of Aus­tralian ca­su­al­ties be­gan in the early hours of Mon­day, Oct. 14. The first Her­cules air­craft ar­rived in Dar­win at 2.30am car­ry­ing three pa­tients in in­ten­sive care, five on stretch­ers and seven who were able to walk. More ca­su­al­ties fol­lowed in what was to be­come the largest aero-med­i­cal evac­u­a­tion since the Vietnam War.

Later that evening af­ter a cabi­net meet­ing, the In­done­sian de­fence min­is­ter an­nounced al- Qaeda was sus­pected to be be­hind the bomb­ing at­tack. Ma­tori Ab­dul Jalil said: “The Bali bomb blast is linked to al- Qaeda with the co-op­er­a­tion of lo­cal mil­i­tants.”

“Aus­tralia has been af­fected very deeply but the Aus­tralian spirit has not been bro­ken. The Aus­tralian spirit re­mains strong and free and open and tol­er­ant,” Aus­tralian Prime Min­is­ter John Howard said dur­ing an ad­dress to the me­mo­rial ser­vice in the Aus­tralian Con­sulate on Oct. 17.

A week on from the tragedy many of the dead had still not been iden­ti­fied, de­spite more than 50 Aus­tralian po­lice of­fi­cers de­voted to the grim task.

Aus­tralians who were still miss­ing their rel­a­tives in Bali were asked to pro­vide DNA sam­ples from hair­brushes and worn clothes in a bid to as­sist the process.

The chief sus­pect, Am­rozi bin Nurhasyim – who was a 40-year-old me­chanic – was ar­rested on Nov. 7 and later charged with plot­ting the ter­ror­ist at­tacks and buy­ing the ex­plo­sives. He caused world­wide out­rage when he laughed and joked dur­ing in­ter­views with the po­lice and sub­se­quently be­came known as “the smil­ing as­sas­sin”.

“I could hear peo­ple scream­ing and cry­ing” — An­drew Cs­abi

More than 30 peo­ple were con­victed for their part in the Bali bomb­ings, which were car­ried out by South-east Asian mil­i­tant net­work Je­maah Is­lamiyah and funded by al- Qaeda.

The mo­tive was said to be re­tal­i­a­tion for the per­ceived op­pres­sion of Mus­lims world­wide by the United States and its al­lies.

Am­rozi’s only re­gret was that so few Amer­i­cans died in the blasts.

In Novem­ber 2008, ter­ror­ists Imam Sa­mu­dra, 38, Am­rozi bin Nurhasyim, 47, and his older brother Ali Ghufron (alias Mukhlas), 48, were ex­e­cuted by fir­ing squad on the prison is­land of Nusakam­ban­gan, af­ter be­ing found guilty of plan­ning and help­ing to carry out the bomb­ings five years ear­lier.

Ev­ery year, me­mo­ri­als are held in Bali and around the world to re­mem­ber those who lost their lives in the bomb­ings.

Many sur­vivors have re­turned to In­done­sia to pay their re­spects.

Just last year, An­drew Cs­abi vis­ited Bali to at­tend the wedding of An­thony Mckay, the man who be­came his best mate in the years af­ter sav­ing his life: “He got mar­ried in Oc­to­ber and we had the plea­sure of go­ing back to Bali for the wedding. It was awe­some,” dou­ble am­putee Cs­abi says.

As for Mckay, he has pre­vi­ously spo­ken of the im­pact the atroc­ity had on him. “We saw the worst of hu­man na­ture with the bomb but you still see the best of hu­man na­ture,” he told the me­dia at a me­mo­rial in Kuta in 2017.

“My mes­sage is we have got to stamp this out. We have got to stamp out ex­trem­ism; you can’t tar­get in­no­cent peo­ple and ex­pect to get away with it.”

His 52-year-old friend Cs­abi – who still has shrap­nel in his right leg – says that while the ex­pe­ri­ence hasn’t stopped him re­turn­ing to Bali, he ad­mits he still feels ner­vous ev­ery time he vis­its.

“It brings all those me­mories back,” he tells WHO. “The Ba­li­nese peo­ple, it wasn’t their fault. It’s a beau­ti­ful is­land and the Ba­li­nese are beau­ti­ful peo­ple.

“It’s a great place to hol­i­day and I still be­lieve it’s a safe place to visit. I don’t want to be held back, so I go. But when the cock­pit opens and the hu­mid­ity rushes in, you know you are there and the hack­les go up.”

Ter­ror­ist Am­rozi bin Nurhasyim gives a thumb’s up as he leaves the court. Imam Sa­mu­dra ar­rives at court in Jakarta un­der po­lice es­cort in May 2003. Aus­tralian Fed­eral Po­lice and In­done­sian in­ves­ti­ga­tors dig through rub­ble.

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