I still get flashbacks of people on fire: Bali rescuer

KUTA, Bali: CIVIL servant Bambang Priyanto, then 43 and responsible for traffic in the Kuta area, was reading in bed when he heard a powerful explosion.

He leapt up, fearing a plane had crashed at the airport nearby. When he stepped out and saw a reddish plume of smoke in the sky, he got on his motorbike, torch and first-aid kit in hand, and sped to a scene he will never forget.

"People were bleeding, screaming 'it's hot, very hot', and some had skin peeling," he recalls of the aftermath of the Bali bombings on Oct 12, 2002. He shudders as he describes the dying he held: a woman whose chest was spliced open, a man who was bleeding profusely where his leg was and foaming at the mouth.

Over the next 11 hours, he mobilised a group of 20 residents from his neighbourhood to ferry the wounded to hospital. The act of bravery made him a local hero. He joined the Red Cross, and has since been helping at disasters around the country - from the 2004 Aceh tsunami to various earthquakes.

For him, like for the victims, the memories of Oct 12 will never vanish. "Every anniversary, I feel the heat from the flames that night, I get flashbacks of people's hair and clothes on fire, how they roll around on the street. It's terrifying," he says. "No one wants to ever see that happen again."

The Bali bombings 10 years ago took the lives of 202 people. Mr Bambang, who has written a book on his experiences in disaster zones, believes his small band of rescuers showed the world that the vast majority of Muslims in Indonesia were appalled by the bombers.

"Perhaps it was God's will that he did not like what was being done in the religion's name there, that somehow a group of ordinary Muslims plunged into the rescue effort without hesitation," he muses.