Tales of anguish on Easter Sunday | Sunday Observer

Tales of anguish on Easter Sunday

Injured foreigners
Injured foreigners

The time was 10.45 am when we reached St. Anthony’s Church aka Kochchikade Shrine last Sunday. However, the clock which stands in the left upper corner of the church showed the time as 8.45 am which had stopped functioning indicating the bloodbath beneath its hands on April 21.

The centuries-old Catholic church was cordoned off by a yellow tape, an indication of a crime scene, and a Navy soldiers blocked our way to the church.

“We are sorry, Sir. We have instructions not to allow anyone inside,” a soldier told us in a friendly tone.

The road in front of the church was covered with blood and shattered glasses. The exterior of the church showed the gravity of the tragedy in the sacred shrine. People in the neighbourhood had gathered behind yellow tapes with tears on their faces. It was not that hard to see the terror in their eyes.

St. Anthony’s church

“I came to a boutique by the church to have a cup of tea. Suddenly, I heard a massive blast and saw around 15 bodies on the road in front of the church and within minutes, ambulances arrived. Some casualities were taken in buses as well. One foreigner who was injured took a three wheeler. We tried to evacuate causalities in the church. But when the police came, they took in charge of the place and asked us to leave,” said K. Wigneswaran, a Kochchikade resident.

Rev. Fr. Jude Raj Fernando, the Administrator of St. Anthony’s church, told the Sunday Observer that it was Easter Sunday and a large crowd of devotees were present.

J. Dickson a resident in the area, had gone to the church in the morning to participate in the Easter Sunday Mass. He recalled that he had been at the place where the bomb blasted. As he has lost sight of the priests, he had gone towards the isle.

“I was at the church when the bomb went off. I stayed near the place where the blast occurred and moved forward as I lost my way. There were around 300 people in the church at the time. We lit candles around 8.30 am and in another 15 minutes, the bomb exploded followed by a cloud of smoke all over the place. Some parts of the church roof also collapsed. It actually was dreadful carnage. I could not hear properly after the impact of the huge blast. However, the police came within five minutes and took us all outside,” he said.

The premises in front of the Accident Ward of the National Hospital was a sort of ‘battleground’, people rushing in everywhere. Husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters and children of the victims were sobbing uncontrollably in front of the hospital gate, as they couldn’t believe what had befallen their loved ones.

“I have been here since 9.30 am. But they didn’t allow us inside. I don’t know what really happened to my sister and brother. They are missing,” a woman told us. She wept inconsolably while talking to us in a voice choked with emotion. Incidentally, there were some ministers also on their way to see their near and dear, if any. We had to wait almost three hours to enter the hospital.

“Why do you allow only Ministers and MPs to go in? What have they got to do? We are their family members,” a man started shouting at security personnel and police officers at the gate. He tried to climb the gate. But the police prevented him.

With the permission of Health Minister Dr. Rajitha Senaratne, the media was permitted to go in around 3.30 in the afternoon.

Ward No. 32 appeared to be the busiest place and soon after the media rushed in. There were 33 victims following the explosions, including those of Kochchikade, Shangri-La, Cinnamon Grand and The Kingsbury.

Foreign victims

The Sunday Observer met Danish Billionaire Anders Holch Povlsen in the hospital corridor. The tycoon was in a state of frenzy as he had just lost his three children due to the bomb blast at Shangri La. He was not willing to talk to the media.

He himself was wounded. He had an injury on his forehead and one of his eyes had swelled.

Jason was another victim of the Cinnamon Grand bomb blast. His father, Allen was with him and they had arrived in Sri Lanka from Holland. We later found that it was Allen who donated a Paediatric Ward to the Ratnapura General Hospital.

The time was 1.10pm. The Director of the Kalubowila Teaching Hospital Director, Dr. Asela Gunawardena was having a discussion with his medical team as to how he should go ahead with crucial surgery on a Japanese patient who was injured in the Shangri-La Hotel bomb blast. At 1.18 pm the medical team left to conduct the surgery.

Seventeen bomb-attack survivors (later increased to 18) had been admitted to the hospital that morning, and six of them were transferred to the Accident Service.

Only six remained including two foreigners. One was fatal. The Sunday Observer later learned the patient, a Japanese nation, succumbed to his injuries. Sumith Eranga Silva, 33, an employee of the Kingsbury Hotel, Colombo, shared his experience:

“The bomb went off at the Harbour Court. I was working in a station close to it. It was around 8.45am and I was working with a colleague when we heard a loud sound. I immediately sat down. I felt something like a current shock running across my body. When I touched my head I found blood pouring down my face. “The area was engulfed with smoke and dust. One of my colleagues called me and I followed her. The security personnel guided me to the reception.

“There were about 40 customers and eight staffers in the place where the bomb exploded.”

A Kingsbury Hotel employee who wished to remain anonymous said the bomb went off at 8.47am, and about nine to ten had died.

Two bodies were wheeled into the main entrance of the Accident Ward of the Kalubowila Teaching Hospital. The victims were a man and a woman. Their bodies covered with bed sheets were taken away.

The victims of the Dehiwala Tropical Inn bombing had died a few minutes ago before they were hospitalised.