BALI BOMBINGS: 10 YEARS ON

Scarred after attack, but glad to be alive: Survivor

Ten years after the Bali bombings, survivors and family members look back on how their lives have changed

DENPASAR - Three days after the Bali bombs exploded, Ms Ngesti Puji Rahayu woke up at Sanglah General Hospital in Denpasar with a stinging sensation on her left side.

The explosion and ensuing blaze had left the then 40-year- old, who was in Paddy's Bar, with a shattered ear drum and burns to her left cheek and entire left arm.

Today, Ms Rahayu chooses to see the scars beneath her ear and on her arm as reminders of rebirth and a second shot at life.

"I am just grateful I am alive and can work. So many others are not as fortunate," she told The Straits Times at the home of her businessman employer in Denpasar, where she works as a cook.

When she regained consciousness after the blast, she was told that doctors had carried out a skin graft. She was eventually flown on a military transport plane to Australia with two other Indonesian casualties, and spent four weeks at the Royal Perth Hospital, where she underwent a second skin graft.

On her return to Bali, investigators recorded her recollection of that night's events. She told them of the blast, and how it was pitch dark save for the flames. Her cheek and arm were on fire.

She went to look for her friend - a delay that saved her life when a second bomb went off outside. Then she stumbled out to a back lane, tore off her shirt and watched her skin peeling, before blacking out.

Ms Rahayu, a divorcee with no children, recuperated at her brother's home in Jember, East Java, before returning to the island for follow-up care.

In January 2003, the family of a pastor asked her to move in and become their cook. The former primary school teacher leapt at the chance. She had had a vision while in hospital, in which she saw Jesus Christ. That year, she became a Christian.

For a year, she was fearful of smoke, flares and loud noises.

Today, she counts herself fortunate that she has always found work as a house cook.

"I am just building up my skills," she said. "I hope to open a stall of my own before long."

ZAKIR HUSSAIN