DUBAI: For the last few days, Sri Lankan housemaid Annshiroma Senani Ranasingha, 39, had been busy planning an Easter dinner that she cooks for her Muslim employers in Dubai.
It was a tradition she has steadfastly followed since she relocated from Sri Lankan city of Negombo five years ago to work for the Indian family in The Springs community.
This year too, Annshiroma bought all essential ingredients for the feast from her own money, stacking the refrigerator with boneless lamb and chicken meat, cheese, carrots, capsicum and several large eggs.
'Easter Sunday dinner never happened'
But the Easter Sunday dinner never happened. An early morning phone call from her 13-year-old daughter Sasha gave her the shattering news — four of their close relatives had been killed while two others were battling for life following a deadly bomb that ripped through the Saint Sebastian’s Church in her hometown earlier that morning.
Among the dead are Annshiroma’s cousin [Tushara] and his 10-year-old daughter [Shaini] and the wife [Chandra] and six-year-old daughter [Sadipa] of a first cousin [Channa] on her mother’s side.
Her maternal aunt Gerty Weerasinghe is in intensive care while another aunt Freida is hospitalised with severe head injuries. All of them were attending Easter services at St Sebastian’s Church located less than two kilometres away their homes in Negombo.
“My mind is baulked. It refuses to believe that so many people in my family are suddenly dead,” said Annshiroma fighting back tears.
“My first cousin Channa escaped the blast because he was selling candles outside the church but there was no such luck for his wife and kid who died instantly. I cannot imagine what Channa must be going through but I have just not been able to muster the courage to call him. What will I say to him? I don’t have any words to express my grief. My niece Sadipa was such a darling and her mom Chandra was truly special to me,” she said showing their pictures on her cellphone.
Several of Annshiroma’s friends are also dead while many others remain unaccounted for.
“In my predominant Christian neighbourhood there’s hardly any house which is not mourning the loss of a loved one. The Saint Sebastian’s Church is very close to where we live, so much so that my mum heard the explosion sitting in her home but mistook it for a firecracker. Because of its proximity, everyone in the neighbours frequents the Saint Sebastian’s Church regularly around this time. In fact, my mum and daughter visited it the day before the attack,” she said.
Annshiroma said the city of Negombo had not seen any violence even at the height of the civil war in Sri Lanka. “This is so unreal. Besides close relatives, many of my friends are dead while others remain critically wounded or missing. I wonder if I will be able to ever overcome this tragedy,” she said.
At least 290 people are now known to have died in a coordinated attack on churches and hotels on Easter Sunday in Sri Lanka.