Thirty minutes of terror that left 200 people dead in Sri Lanka

A flash of flame… then blood on the walls: Thirty minutes of terror that left 200 people dead as explosions ripped through three luxury hotels and three churches in Sri Lanka

  • Hundreds of victims, including at least three Britons, died in the terror attacks
  • Suicide bombers targeted hotel restaurants as they served breakfast to guests
  • Three churches were also attacked as worshippers held Easter Sunday service

The Cinnamon Grand

The suicide bomber queued up patiently for the five-star hotel’s breakfast buffet before mercilessly detonating his explosives.

He had checked in the night before, under the name of Mohamed Azzam Mohamed, giving a false address and saying he was there on business.

The terrorist had a plate in one hand and had just reached the front of the queue when he detonated the device, which was strapped to his back.

A total of eight bombs exploded at various locations in Sri Lanka during the attacks. A ninth device was later discovered at the country’s main airport and was disposed of

The hotel’s Taprobane restaurant was having one its busiest days of the year and packed with families.

Describing the ensuing panic, a hotel manager, who wished to remain anonymous, said: ‘It was 8.30am and it was busy. It was families. He came up to the top of the queue and set off the blast.

‘One of our managers who was welcoming guests was among those killed instantly. There was utter chaos, but we rushed all the injured to hospital in a very short time. About 20 people were seriously wounded and we sent them to the National Hospital.’

The Shangri-La

A MILE up the coast, a London professor narrowly avoided death by going back to his hotel room for his debit card.

Kieran Arasaratnam, a director at Imperial College London’s business school, was in his room on the 18th floor when the bomb went off.

It ripped through the hotel’s Table One restaurant, on the third floor, at 9am, shortly after the Cinnamon Grand explosion. Professor Arasaratnam, 41, a Sri Lankan who moved to the UK as a refugee 30 years ago, said he heard a sound like ‘thunder’. He had initially left his room at 8.45am.

A gaping hole in the side of The Shangri-La hotel’s restaurant following the blast 

‘Something distracted me so I went back to the room to grab my debit card, opened the curtain and switched off the ‘do not disturb’ sign… and a big blast went off,’ he said.

‘Everyone just started to panic, it was total chaos. I looked to the room on the right and there’s blood everywhere.

‘Everyone was running and a lot of people just didn’t know what was going on. People had blood on their shirts and there was someone carrying a girl to the ambulance. The walls and the floor were covered in blood.’

Many of the restaurant’s windows had been blown out of their panes and electrical wiring could be seen hanging from the ceiling.

The Kingsbury

Pictures showed the shattered window panels and smashed lightshades of the hotel’s Ocean restaurant, which had been serving breakfast when the blast struck.

The hotel later released a statement on its Facebook page which said: ‘On behalf of the entire Kingsbury team we share in the shock, grief and mourning of our entire nation in the aftermath of the recent attack.

‘Medical evacuation and treatment of the injured guests and employees were handled immediately.’

The hotel said it had been ‘isolated’ for further safety checks.

Dining tables and chairs can be seen in the restaurant of The Kingsbury hotel, which was bombed as staff served breakfast to guests 

St Anthony’s Shrine

The terrorist blast at the church – one of the best-known Christian sites in Colombo – was captured on a dashcam video.

The shocking footage, posted online, shows vehicles travelling along St Anthony’s Street in the Kochchikade district alongside the city’s port. As the towers of St Anthony’s Shrine come into view, seen from the south, a huge plume of grey dust and debris is projected rapidly into the air.

There is also a brief flash of orange flame. A column of smoke continues to rise far above the church towers.

Security staff pick through the wreckage as they are surrounded by dead bodies covered with sheets following the bombing at St Anthony’s Shrine in Colombo

As onlookers stare in the direction of the church, cars, tuk-tuks, mopeds and other vehicles turn around and begin to drive away from the disaster scene.

A shopkeeper who rushed in to help described a ‘river of blood’.

Witnesses later said bodies were left strewn across the floor of the church, covered in patterned scarves and white sheets, some of them stained with blood.

Shattered roof tiles and shards of glass littered the floor, along with chunks of plaster blasted from the walls. At least 160 people were killed or injured when the bomb went off at about 8.45am, as they celebrated Easter Sunday mass.

N. A. Sumanapala, a shopkeeper who works near the church and ran inside to help, said: ‘It was a river of blood. Ash was falling like snow.’ A statue of the Virgin Mary lay smashed on the ground next to bodies covered by clothing.

St Sebastian’s Church

At least 62 were killed at this Roman Catholic church in Negombo, a city on the west coast where – unlike most of Sri Lanka – Christians form a majority. Pictures of the aftermath of the blast show a statue of Christ splattered with blood.

Dismembered bodies were lying on the ground partly covered by tiles which had fallen from the roof. Many of the pews were completely shattered and the church’s white floor was marked with blood.

The church posted a message on Facebook shortly after the blast which read: ‘A bomb attack to our church, please come and help if your family members are there.’

About two thirds of Negombo’s population are Roman Catholics.

At least 62 worshippers were killed when a bomb devastated St Sebastian’s Church during the Easter Sunday service

Stunned survivors sit in shock in the aftermath of the blast at St Sebastian’s Church

A statue of Christ at St Sebastian’s Church is spattered with blood following the bombing

Zion Church

Simon Whitmarsh, a retired doctor from Wales, was cycling near the city of Batticaloa, on the east coast, when he saw ‘smoke billowing into the sky’. The 55-year-old former consultant, who was on holiday, said he heard a ‘big bang’ and smoke about half a mile away.

‘Then we saw the ambulances, people crying, and we were told to leave the area.’

He said he went to volunteer at the local hospital but it was heavily guarded by the army. ‘By that stage, they had activated emergency protocols,’ he said.

At least 27 people died in the blast at Zion Church on the east coast city of Batticaloa

‘The hospital was heavily guarded by the army, who were stopping most people going in.

‘All the streets around it were closed. It seemed very well organised. All I did was find someone senior to see if I could help.’

At least 27 were reported killed at this church.

Devastated locals outside a mortuary in Colombo in the aftermath of the terror attacks

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