Thursday, 24th June 2021

Lanka blasts victims’ kins endure pain, incomprehension

Colombo, April 22 (IANS): The relatives of the Sri Lanka blasts victims continued to pour into Colombo on Monday to identify their loved ones, killed in a series of coordinated attacks on churches and hotels on Easter Sunday. More than 290 people were killed and over 500 others injured in the attacks.

In the narrow street that leads to the morgue at the National Hospital, where most of the deceased and injured had been transferred, continued to witness a steady stream of mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters and other relatives.

Sara, a member of the minority Christian population, arrived here from Candy after losing contact with her older sister. “My younger sister called me and told me our older sister had gone to church. I called her on the phone, but did not get an answer,” she told Efe news.

After an unsuccessful visit to the church of San Antonio de Colombo, where one of the attacks took place, Sara visited the morgue where she found her body. “We were very happy the last time we saw each other, I do not think we expected such an end,” she said. They last saw each other last week during the celebrations of the Sri Lankan New Year.

Sri Lankans have survived almost three decades of civil war between the Tamil guerrillas and the government forces, which left more than 40,000 civilians dead, according to information from the UN.

Sara’s story, which she told in front of the hospital from which military and medical personnel were continuously transferring coffins to vans, was the same as many others.

Nuwan, 24, spoke of “not knowing what to do” after discovering death of his older sister, Rakhila, 27.

The young man remembered with bitterness how he left his family “early in the morning” in front of the church and asked them to call him after the mass. The call never came. He only discovered the tragedy when someone answered the phone to one of their relatives who told them about the attack.

One day after the attacks — which hit three luxury hotels in Colombo and a church each in Colombo, Negombo and Batticaloa besides two other locations in the national capital — the marks of explosions were still fresh.

There was a crowd at the foot of the church of San Antonio, in north Colombo, which included security personnel, neighbours and people who came to pay their respects.

One resident, P.L. Anton, said he was startled by the explosion. “We thought a vehicle wheel had exploded until we went out and saw the thick column of smoke and wounded people running around.”

Numerous faithful had come to the church for Easter Sunday, one of the most important festivals in the Christian calendar.

The church was much more than a meeting point for Christians, since people of all religions frequently visited it, said Father Jude Fernando, who was officiating at the time of attack and escaped unharmed.

“It makes me very sad that all this has happened,” said Philip, 52, who was at a Colombo hospital helping a family look for a missing 17-year-old girl from a local church.

 

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