Nov 14, 2020 in Politics

Mass-Casualty Terrorist Attacks 2

Mass-Casualty Terrorist Attacks 2

The present essay constitutes a white paper, written by the senior civilian advisor with the emergency response manager (ERM). It studies the psychological impact of two selected mass-casualty incidents (MCI), one of which was caused by the terrorists and the other one by natural factors. This paper is aimed to detect a strategy, capable of evaluating and ensuring the city preparedness for the psychological aftermath of the disaster. Bali Nightclub Bombings, Indonesia (2002) and Hurricane Katrina, United States (2005) have been selected as the case examples for this white paper.


Bali Nightclub Bombings, Indonesia (2002) have been rightfully considered as the worst act of terror in Indonesian history. Inherently, one of the most peaceful and politically neutral parts of the world and a favorite tourist destination for Australians was targeted because of its close ties with the neighbor that exercises a significant political and economic weight in the international arena. The MCI took place in Kuta, Bali, which represents one of the most crowded tourist areas of the island amidst the high season of vacations. It was initiated and conducted by the militants of Jemaah Islamiyah, a violent Islamist group, which earlier issued a number of threats to the Australian officials for their support of the U.S. anti-terrorist strategy. The death of 202 and severe injury of about 240 people, including Australians, Indonesians, and citizens of the other nationalities was achieved by the nearly simultaneous detonation of three bombs. The main bomb was delivered and operated by a suicide bomber on the territory of the local nightclub. When it detonated, the second powerful blast followed outside the neighboring nightclub just some seconds later. It affected both its guests and those tourists, who rushed into the street in the attempt to escape the devastating effect of the first bombing. The third incident, which occurred near the U.S. embassy in Denpasar, was relatively minor in comparison with the initial bombing (Allard & Murray, 2008).

The psychological symptoms, exhibited by direct attack victims proved the state of extreme shock that was shared by all the people, regardless their nationality. Fortunately, stress and shock did not lead to psychological paralysis. Moreover, it caused a wave of immediate and justified indignation at the abominable character of the attack and its deliberate placement in time and space that allowed maximizing the number of killed and wounded victims. This rightful anger instigated the mobilization of human psychological and physical resources. Many Balinese Indonesians and foreign tourists immediately joined the rescue and response operations. They did the primary triage in the affected locations, provided first aid, rendered professional medical assistance, carried the wounded further from the concentration of fire and wreckage, summoned official search and rescue teams, and kept the detailed records and timeline of the event. This timely and comprehensive involvement of survivors and witnesses allowed minimizing the death toll and material losses from the bombing. In their turn, the psychological symptoms, exhibited by indirect victims such as family members, friends, and coworkers of the direct victims, though filled with deep sorrow and sadness, showed no signs of agony or depression. The decisive actions, initiated by the Indonesian government allowed the swift apprehension and execution of the bombers and gave the sense of relief and retribution. The victims were provided with the immediate professional psychological assistance, and they were encouraged to assign to the corresponding long-term treatment plans (Allard & Murray, 2008).

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The case of the psychological trauma, triggered by the hurricane Katrina, which hit the U.S. Gulf coast in August of 2005, was quite different. With about 1500 killed people and hundreds of injured or missing, the incident was believed to be one of the deadliest events in the national history (Spike, 2006). The problems ranged from the erroneous understatement of the hurricanes category and insufficient evacuation initiatives to the delayed emergency response, caused by the protracted bargaining between the state and federal governments over management responsibilities (Voorhees, Vick, Perkins, Hodgetts, & Chamberlain, 2007). The rampage of the category five storm was aggravated by the dramatic failure of nearly all levees causing the massive flooding of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama areas.

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The psychological symptoms, exhibited by direct attack victims, trapped in the flooded areas and refugee camps, indicated shock and sense of abandonment. These issues triggered indignation, bordering on outrage and extremism. This psychological state was responsible for the looting, violence, and other forms of criminal activity, registered in the aftermath of the natural disaster. During the lengthy period of lawlessness, combined with the lack of aid and information, people felt thrown in the lurch. This traumatic experience was followed by the onset of the deeper fears, distrust to the authorities, and racial tensions. Similar symptoms were exhibited by indirect victims. The lack of feasible long-term recovery and reconstruction plans exacerbated the psychological alienation and hostility of the survivors. Even though the problem has been identified and, on numerous occasions, the attention of the authorities has been turned to this aspect of needs, shared by the local residents, there is no information on the immediate and long-term treatment plans for the victims (Spike, 2006).

It is possible to conclude that though the psychological impact of a mass-casualty incident (MCI) can be devastating, it can be mitigated and corrected by the timely and proper intervention of professional treatment. Moreover, the scope and gravity of the psychological trauma depend on the success and comprehensiveness of the preparedness, search, and rescue strategies in the place. This advisory opinion is corroborated by the difference in the social experience of Bali Nightclub Bombings, Indonesia (2002) and Hurricane Katrina, United States (2005).


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