Sri Lanka explosions: British citizens caught in blasts

REUTERS Image caption A statue of the Virgin Mary, broken in St Anthony's Shrine
Sri Lankan soldiers stand guard outside the Kochchikade church in Colombo

Trump tweets 138 million killed in Sri Lanka blasts BBC News

British citizens have been caught in explosions at hotels and churches in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday.

Police say 207 people have been killed and at least 450 injured in the blasts.

The UK’s High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, James Dauris, said: “We understand that some British citizens were caught in the blasts but we are unable to say how many people are, or might have been, affected.”

Officials in Sri Lanka say there have been at least nine foreign casualties.

They were from the UK, the USA, Netherlands and Portugal.

President Donald Trump Sri Lanka Terrorist Attack Death Toll Gaffe
President Donald Trump Sri Lanka Terrorist Attack Death Toll Gaffe

Mr Dauris said he and his consular team were visiting one of the main hospitals in Colombo where casualties were taken.

He said those still in the country to contact relatives and to follow instructions from local authorities and hotel security. The British government has updated its travel advice.

Eight blasts have been reported across the country. In Colombo, St Anthony’s Shrine and the Cinnamon Grand, Shangri-La and Kingsbury hotels were targeted.

Blasts also happened in St Sebastian’s Church in Negombo, a town approximately 20 miles north of Colombo, and at Zion Church in Batticaloa on the east coast.

Sri Lankan soldiers stand guard outside the Kochchikade church in Colombo
Image captionSri Lankan soldiers stand guard outside the Kochchikade church in Colombo

Julian Emmanuel and his family, from Surrey, were staying at the Cinnamon Grand when they were woken up by the explosion.

“There were ambulances, fire crews, police sirens,” he told the BBC.

“I came out of the room to see what’s happening, we were ushered downstairs.

“We were told there had been a bomb. Staff said some people were killed. One member of staff told me it was a suicide bomber.”

‘Lucky to be alive’

Tourist Marisa Keller, from London, was staying at the Shangri-La in Colombo but wasn’t there when it was attacked. She said she was “lucky to be alive”.

“My cousin called to say a hotel had been bombed,” she said. “We saw the ambulances at the Cinnamon Grand and said ‘you’re right’.

“Then we got back to the Shangri-La and saw everybody outside. The staff were trying to make sure who was safe and who was not.

“There were lots of bodies, blood, ambulances, police. Swat teams were sent in.

“One side of the hotel was blocked off. They were letting people back in because of the hot sun.”

Sri Lankan police at the site of an explosion at the luxury Shangri-La hotel in Colombo.
Image captionSri Lankan police at the site of an explosion at the luxury Shangri-La hotel in Colombo

Dan Wilcock, 31, from Leicester, was staying in Negombo for work. After hearing of the blasts, he went to visit St Sebastian’s, which is approximately a mile from his hotel.

“I was surprised I could get so close to the church,” he said.

“You couldn’t see much – there were trucks outside and military.

“There are quite a few upset people standing outside and every now and then the guards would let someone through. I took some photos but then they asked me to stop so I went away.

“There’s been no advice from the hotel about stay inside or and there’s no extra security. All the restaurants and shops in the town are still open.”

A statue of the Virgin Mary broken in St Anthony's Shrine
Image captionA statue of the Virgin Mary, broken in St Anthony’s Shrine

The Sri Lankan government said there would a temporary block on the use of major social media networks and a curfew imposed from 18:00 to 06:00 local time (12:30-00:30 GMT).

Local media report that security has been stepped up at the country’s main Bandaranaike International Airport.

Prime Minister Theresa May said the killings were “truly appalling” and “no one should ever have to practise their faith in fear”.

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said he was “deeply shocked and saddened” by the “horrifying attacks”.

He added: “To target those gathered for worship on Easter Sunday is particularly wicked.”

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn called for “unity, love and respect” to combat hatred.

He said: “I stand with the victims, their families, the people of Sri Lanka and Christians around the world. We must defeat this hatred with unity, love and respect.”

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