• Multiple blasts in three Churches during Holy Easter Mass
• Three luxury hotels too targeted; more than 450 injured
Colomb: At least 200 people have been killed and more than 450 were injured after explosions in three Churches and three hotels in and around the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo this morning. The blasts hit three high-end hotels and a Church in Colombo while two other Churches were targeted outside Colombo, Police told news agencies.
The nature of the explosions, which happened at around 8.45 am local time, was not immediately clear and there were no immediate claims of responsibility. The Sri Lanka Government has called an emergency meeting, the Minister of Economic Reforms, Harsha de Silva, said in a tweet. “Emergency meeting called in a few minutes. Rescue operations underway.”
Two of the blasts were suspected to have been carried out by suicide bombers, according to the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorised to speak with reporters.
President Maithripala Sirisena said, he was shocked by the explosions and urged for calm. The first explosions were reported at St. Anthony’s Church in Colombo and St. Sebastian’s Church at Katuwapitiya in the town of Negombo.
The government has declared two days’ holiday in schools in Sri Lanka after the blasts shocked the nation.
“A bomb attack to our Church, please come and help if your family members are there,” read a post in English on the Facebook page of the St Sebastian’s Church. Soon after the initial reports, four other blasts were confirmed by the Police. Three of those were at hotels, while another was reported from a Church in the town of Batticaloa.
The explosion ripped off the roof and knocked out doors and windows at St. Sebastian’s, where people carried the wounded away from blood-stained pews, TV footage showed.
An official at the Batticaloa hospital said more than 450 people had been admitted with injuries following the blast there. In Colombo, the blasts hit the Cinnamon Grand Hotel, the Shangri-La and the Kingsbury.
At least one of the victims was killed in Colombo’s Cinnamon Grand Hotel, near the Prime Minister’s official residence, where the blast ripped through a restaurant, a hotel official said. Local TV showed damage at the Cinnamon Grand, Shangri-La and Kingsbury hotels.
The Shangri-La’s second-floor restaurant was gutted in the blast, with the ceiling and windows blown out. Loose wires hung and tables were overturned in the blackened space.
A Police magistrate was at the hotel to inspect the bodies recovered from the restaurant. From outside the police cordon, several bodies could be seen covered in white sheets.
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, responding to the explosions, said that she is in close touch with the Indian High Commissioner in Colombo and that the government was closely monitoring the situation in the neighbouring country.
For Indian citizens in Sri Lanka requiring any assistance, the Indian embassy in Sri Lanka has tweeted out helpline numbers. Only around six percent of mainly Buddhist Sri Lanka is Catholic, but the religion is seen as a unifying force because it includes people from both the Tamil and majority Sinhalese ethnic groups.