DUBAI: Sri Lankan expats in the UAE have expressed shock and outrage at the coordinated terror attacks in the island nation which left nearly 200 dead and hundreds injured on Sunday.
The blasts, which occurred in the cities of Negombo, Batticalo and the capital Colombo, targeted several five-star hotels and churches as worshippers attended Easter services.
Dubai-based Kelum Sujith, 42, who works in the insurance sector, said he’s numbed with disbelief. “My family is safe, but my neighbour back home and friend Nimal Shantha died when a bomb ripped through the Cinnamon Grand Hotel in Colombo. He was the coffee shop manager at the hotel. I was still grieving the loss when I found out that another friend lost his mother-in-law in the bomb blast at St Anthony’s Church in Kochchikade. It’s is a black day for the entire country and a personal tragedy for me. Even at the height of the brutal civil war, churches and hotels were never attacked. This is a first for us,” said Sujith.
Another Sri Lankan expat struggling to cope with the tragedy is mother of two Radha Fonseca. The 34-year-old lost her college mate Nilanga Mayadume in the attack.
Nilanga was having an Easter breakfast with mum Shantha Mayadume and dad Kumar Mayadume at Colombo’s Shangri-La-Hotel when an explosion ripped through the place. Nilanga and Shantha died in the blast while Kumar is battling for life.
“I am in a state of shock. Nilanga was very popular in college while her mother Shantha was a chef who ran the famous Shantha Mayadunne School of Cooking Art,” said Fonesca who is due to travel to Colombo for a family wedding on Monday.
Ex-Sri Lankan cricketer and head coach of Sharjah-based Desert Cubs Sports Academy, Presley Polonowitta, said Kumar Mayadunne was his colleague at a bank in Colombo.
“We go back a long way. Not only did we play cricket together we also worked at the same place. Now he’s lying in hospital while his wife and daughter are dead,” he said.
Longtime Dubai resident Deepal Rajaguru, 60, who works in the aviation sector, described the attacks as inhuman and barbaric.
“What do these terrorists get by targeting innocent civilians? After the end of the civil war that raged for over two decades, Sri Lanka had become a cradle of peace. Tourism was thriving in the country. No one expected this to happen,” said Rajaguru, who has been living in the UAE for 30 years.
Another expat, Yoshita Mohammad, 49, who embraced Islam after marriage, said she has fond memories of St Sebestian’s Church in Katuwanpitiya and the St Anthony’s Church in Negombo.
250000is the estimated number of Sri Lankans who live and work in the UAE
“I have spent several Easter and Christmas prayers in these churches. Seeing them ravaged by bombs broke my heart,” she said.
Shaken by the tragedy, many UAE residents, meanwhile, took to social media to express their condolences.
“After many lovely years in the UAE, we have friends and contacts who are from Sri Lanka, we pray for your safety. Our hearts reach out to you,” tweeted Susan Magrabi.
“Many of us in the UAE have close connections with Sri Lanka and today we hold all Sri Lankans in our hearts as they endure the unthinkable,” tweeted Sarah Jamie Bahar.
Indian expat S. Ahmad said he was planning to go to Colombo for a vacation but is undecided now.
UAE-based airlines have not yet made any changes to their flights to or from Sri Lanka, but said they are monitoring the situation and will issue updates accordingly.
flydubai said in a statement it is “saddened” to hear about the news in Sri Lanka, adding that its double daily flights to Colombo are operating to schedule. Meanwhile, Emirates and Etihad Airways also said there are no changes in their flights and no advisories are being sent to passengers.
Sri Lankan ambassador to the UAE Ahamed Lebbe Sabarullah Khan said they have no information of any one from the UAE being among the casualties. “We are coordinating with the foreign ministry and also checking with hospitals to source more information in this regard. So far we have not heard anything,” Khan told Gulf News.
Charitha Yattogoda, Consul General for Sri Lanka described the terror attacks as cowardly. “It’s a terrible, terrible day. Our prayers are with those who have lost their loved ones in the horrific attacks,” Yattogoda said. “This is the first instance of serial bombing country since the end of the civil war in 2009. The perpetuators of this cowardly attack will not be spared,” he said.