In Sri Lanka, survivors healing trauma of terror attacks

2019-04-23 02:32:08 GMT2019-04-23 10:32:08(Beijing Time) Xinhua English

by Jamila Najmuddin

COLOMBO, April 22 (Xinhua) -- When 26-year-old Suganthi Kannasamy dressed for the Easter Mass last Sunday, she was joyful. It was her five- year-old daughter's birthday and she had planned an Easter lunch at her house, located in Kochchikade, in Sri Lanka's capital.

Suganthi was a Catholic and visited the St. Anthony's Church every Sunday with her husband and daughter. Her house was located in close proximity to the church.

She felt safe there.

A while after Suganthi entered the St. Anthony's Church, holding her daughter's hand on Sunday, the girl wanted to go out to have a small snack.

"As I made my way out, I suddenly felt a huge impact hit me from behind. I fell to the ground and could not wake up for a few seconds. Everything was hazy. Suddenly I smelt blood," she said.

Suganthi got injuries to her back, hand and right leg. She said within a few seconds people were crying, screaming. She immediately turned around to find her daughter, who was lying a few feet away. She rushed to her, in pain.

"My heart stopped. I carried my daughter and wanted to rush out. There was a lot of screaming and crying. No one knew what had happened. I rushed with my daughter outside, weeping," she said.

Once out, Suganthi heard her daughter crying on her shoulder. She was relieved.

"I ran away from the area as far as possible. I did not know what had happened. I ran till I reached a safer road. Then I collapsed."

Suganthi was rushed to the Colombo National Hospital but due to her injuries being non severe, she was discharged on Monday morning. Her daughter is safe with a small bandage around her arm. She is safe near her husband. "Who did this?" she questioned.

Suganthi is not the only one living in fear now. The blast which hit the St. Anthony's Church in Kochchikade claimed lives of at least 73 people, according to officials from the Colombo National Hospital.

Some injured eye witnesses said that they saw the bomber. He was seen carrying a large bag and went and sat in one of the middle benches of the church.

In a nearby church in Dematagoda, a local resident, Francis Perera told Xinhua that moments after the explosion in St. Anthony's Church, police entered their church and requested people to go back home. "All they told us was that there had been a blast nearby and all must go home immediately," she said. She and her family left.

"Many of the injured are recovering. There are foreigners among those injured and presently we have all the medical facilities in place to treat all of them," said Dr. Kumara Wickremesinghe, Deputy Director General of Colombo National Hospital.

Just shortly after the St. Anthony's explosion, a bomb ripped through the St. Sebastian's Church in Negombo, in the outskirts of the capital. Hundreds had been in church, taking part in Easter Mass.

So far at least 104 people have died in that explosion with over 100 injured, according to officials from the Negombo Hospital.

Then shortly afterwards, a third bomb struck the Zion church in Batticaloa, in the eastern province, where at least 300 people were attending Easter Mass. Twenty-eight people have so far died in that blast, while over 50 have been injured, according to Batticaloa Hospital sources.

The Ragama Hospital in Colombo also received seven bodies while 32 of those injured are receiving treatment.

As panic spread across the island country following the church bombings, explosions occurred in the Shangri-la Hotel, the Cinnamon Grand Hotel and the Kingsbury Hotel in Colombo. All explosions happened in the main restaurant of the hotels, when guests were having their breakfast.

Guests including foreigners all rushed out of the hotels, in fear and were guided by the respective hotel managements. The dead and injured were rushed to hospitals.

The latest death toll from the blasts, according to the police, is 290 killed and over 500 injured. The dead include 32 foreigners.

"We severely condemn these attacks. I urge for people to remain calm and united and to assist the official authorities conduct swift investigations. We will catch those behind these attacks," President Maithripala Sirisena said in a statement, hours after the explosions.

Tri forces and the police had cordoned off the blast sites, and several government and opposition legislators visited the explosion sites to asses the extent of damage.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, visiting the St. Anthony's Church in Colombo on Sunday, urged people to remain calm but said those responsible will be caught. "We will never let terrorism raise its head again in this country," he said.

As fear and panic had spread across the country over the church and hotel explosions, terror struck again on Sunday afternoon.

At 2:00 p.m. local time, a bomb ripped through a small hotel, located close to the Dehiwala Zoo in Colombo. Three people died from the explosion. Then at 2:30 p.m. another blast occurred in a housing complex in the highly populated Dematagoda area, also in Colombo.

Police said shortly after this blast, a suspect had hidden himself in a house in the area with explosives. The suspect was arrested but three police officers were killed in a shoot out.

The government have vowed to conduct thorough investigations and said massive search operations were underway to nab the suspects.

The police said so far, 24 had been arrested.

Sri Lanka's Health Minister Rajitha Senaratne in a media briefing on Monday said that a local Muslim radical group, the "National Towheed Jamat" is responsible for the attacks. He said police had also received prior information of possible terror attacks but adequate measures had not been taken.

On Sunday evening, Prime Minister Wickremesinghe expressed disappointment over not being informed that the police had received prior information and said the matter would be looked into.

President Sirisena has appointed a special committed to probe into the explosions. His office said that he had made an appeal to the international community to assist in the probe.

An island wide curfew was also re-imposed on Monday evening, starting 8:00 p.m. local time which would end 4:00 a.m. Tuesday. The government is calling Sunday's attacks as the bloodiest day in Sri Lankan history.