Sri Lanka blasts: Grieving island nation begins burying victims

COLOMBO: Devastated relatives collapsed into the arms of bystanders at memorial services Tuesday, as Sri Lanka began burying victims of deadly weekend suicide blasts. “We haven’t felt this sad since the war,” said Rashmi Fernando, 36, referring to the civil conflict that ravaged the country until a decade ago.

“I lost three cousins in the attack and another one is in ICU,” said Ms. Fernando, who was attending a service at the heavily damaged St Sebastian’s Church in Negombo with her daughters, aged three and eight.

“We’re here to pay our respects and pray that my injured cousin will recover.”

On Tuesday, victims were remembered with three minutes of silence that started at 8.30 a.m. (0300 GMT), when the first of the bombs detonated.

Memorial services

Inside St. Sebastian’s, evidence of the blast was everywhere, with shattered religious statues and smashed pews littering the floor.

Services were held in the grounds, where more than a thousand people gathered by mid-morning to remember the victims.

Some 22 people had been buried in separate coffins by midday on Tuesday, laid to rest side-by-side in a sandy patch of church land.

More people are believed to have died in the blast at St. Sebastian’s than at any of the five other attack sites, with the local hospital receiving more than 100 bodies. Memorial services were also held at St. Anthony’s Shrine in Colombo, also targeted on Sunday.

Security was tight after another explosive found by police detonated near the church before the bomb squad could defuse it.