‘Where is God?’: Sri Lankans stunned after deadly blasts

As Shantha Prasad carried children wounded in Sri Lanka’s deadly attacks into a Colombo hospital, memories of the country’s deadly civil war flooded back.

“I carried about eight wounded children yesterday,” he told AFP on Monday, a day after a string of blasts hit hotels and churches, killing nearly 300 people.

READ MORE: Easter blasts at Sri Lanka hotels and churches kill at least 207

“There were two girls aged six and eight, the same age as my daughters,” said Prasad, who helps carry stretchers into the hospital’s triage area and wards.

“Their clothes were torn and drenched in blood. It is unbearable to see this kind of violence again.”

For many Sri Lankans, Sunday’s attacks against churches and high-end hotels brought back painful memories of a conflict that lasted three decades and killed as many as 100,000 people.

During those years, bomb attacks were a regular occurrence, and left many Sri Lankans on edge in the streets and on public transport.

In the capital, street sweeper Malathi Wickrama said Monday he was now nervous doing his job.

“Now we are afraid to even touch black plastic bags with garbage,” he said.

“The string of blasts yesterday brings back memories of the time when we were afraid to go in buses or trains because of parcel bombs.”

‘We are resilient’

With the lifting of a nationwide curfew early Monday morning, people began to emerge into Colombo’s streets, where security was heavy.

Schools and the stock exchange are closed, but some shops opened their doors and public transport was functioning.

Imtiaz Ali, a tuk-tuk driver, was looking for customers in the capital, but said his family was in mourning over the death of his nephew in the blast that hit the Cinnamon Grand hotel.

“The boy was just 23. He was a salesman at Cinnamon Grand hotel and he was to be married next week,” Ali told AFP.

“We had made all the plans to hold the wedding at home, but today it’s a funeral house.”

When Ali stopped at a petrol station to get a back-up container of fuel, the attendant said police had banned the sale of petrol and diesel in cans and bottles for fear they could be used to improvise bombs.

Elsewhere in the city, some residents were making their way into work, determined to maintain a semblance of normality despite the tragedy.

“We are resilient people,” said Nuwan Samarweera, a 50-year-old office worker.

“We have seen so much violence during the civil war. For the outside world it may be big, but for us life goes on,” he added.

“We have to gather ourselves and move on.”

‘Where is God?’

North of Colombo, people gathered at the St Sebastian’s church to pay their respects at a site where dozens of people were killed as they attended Easter prayers.

A mother and son poured tea for security forces in a show of support, as cleaners wearing face masks cleared shattered glass and splintered wood inside the church.

Buddhist monks joined priests, nuns and ordinary people arriving to offer condolences to the victims.

“I woke up this morning and thought ‘what can I do to help?'” said Churchill Karunaratne, 52, weeping as he laid flowers outside the church.

He had rushed to the church after the blast a day earlier hoping to help and found scenes of horror.

“I came after the blast and saw dead bodies everywhere,” said Karunaratne, a father-of-three.

“My kids have seen it all on the TV and now they are very scared about going to church,” he added.

“They are asking many questions such as ‘where is God?'”

© Agence France-Presse

PW Botha wagged his finger and banned us in 1988 but we stood firm. We built a reputation for fearless journalism, then, and now. Through these last 35 years, the Mail & Guardian has always been on the right side of history.

These days, we are on the trail of the merry band of corporates and politicians robbing South Africa of its own potential.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.

Advertisting

In East Africa, the locusts are coming back for more

In February the devastating locust swarms were the biggest seen in East Africa for 70 years. Now they’re even bigger

Western Cape Judge Mushtak Parker faces second misconduct complaint

The Cape Bar Council says his conduct is ‘unbecoming the holding of judicial office’

‘My biggest fear was getting the virus and dying in...

South African Wuhan evacuee speaks about his nine-week ordeal

Border walls don’t stop viruses, but a blanket amnesty might

Why South Africa should consider amnesty for undocumented migrants in the time of the coronavirus outbreak.

Press Releases

The online value of executive education in a Covid-19 world

Executive education courses further develop the skills of leaders in the workplace

Sisa Ntshona urges everyone to stay home, and consider travelling later

Sisa Ntshona has urged everyone to limit their movements in line with government’s request

SAB Zenzele’s special AGM postponed until further notice

An arrangement has been announced for shareholders and retailers to receive a 77.5% cash payout

20th Edition of the National Teaching Awards

Teachers are seldom recognised but they are indispensable to the country's education system

Awards affirm the vital work that teachers do

Government is committed to empowering South Africa’s teachers with skills, knowledge and techniques for a changing world

SAB Zenzele special AGM rescheduled to March 25 2020

New voting arrangements are being made to safeguard the health of shareholders

Dimension Data launches Saturday School in PE

The Gauteng Saturday School has produced a number of success stories