Sri Lanka is in mourning after 250 innocent lives were taken in a targeted spate of bombings at churches and luxury hotels as people celebrated Easter Sunday on the island nation off the southern coast of India.
Three churches in Negombo, Batticaloa and Colombo’s Kochchikade district were targeted by suicide bombers during Easter services.
Blasts also tragically rocked the Shangri-La, Kingsbury and Cinnamon Grand hotels in the country’s capital.
The majority of the 250 innocent men, women and children who died were Sri Lankan nationals including members of church congregations and staff at the hotels, with officials saying that 40 of the dead were multi-national foreign tourists.
Security forces have found numerous other explosive devices at a variety of locations since the attack, including at a bus station in Colombo, where police officers found 87 bomb detonators.
Another bomb was discovered inside a large PVC pipe packed with explosives on the way to Bandaranaike International Airport and diffused by authorities.
Sri Lankan authorities temporarily blocked social media services on Sunday including Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp, Instagram and Snapchat following the attacks in a bid to stop the circulation of false information and reduce the risk of further violence.
This was expected to be Sri Lanka’s year with Lonely Planet naming the island – “the best country in the world to visit in 2019”.
For the first time since the 26-year long civil war that ended in 2009, tourism was re-injecting much-needed hope and prosperity for a country that had been deprived of it for so long.
Indeed, 2018 saw the local tourism sector boom, with 2.1 million guests visiting and Australians flocking in record numbers for its famed wellness, eco, wildlife, surf, food and culture options. Australian visitor numbers to Sri Lanka have grown by 10.7% since 2014.
Today, Sri Lankans will instead observe a national day of mourning.
WERE THERE AUSTRALIANS CAUGHT UP?
An Australian mother and her 10-year-old daughter are tragically among the victims. It is understood they were killed when one of the bombs went off at a church in the city of Negombo. One was a dual-national and the other an Australian citizen.
Two other Australians have also been injured in the attacks. The two women are reportedly a stable condition with one treated for shrapnel wounds and the other a broken leg. One woman is in her mid-50s and the other in her mid-20s.
Australian suppliers and tour companies are thankfully reporting that none of their travellers has been affected by the events in Sri Lanka on Sunday with many of them sending us updates and tributes.
WHICH HOTELS WERE AFFECTED?
Three hotels – the Shangri-La, Cinnamon Grand and the Kingsbury were all targeted, with nine foreign tourists reportedly among the dead.
Staff of all faiths at the three hotels were also among the dead with numerous casualties reported.
IS IT SAFE TO VISIT?
For the next few months at least, tourism numbers to Sri Lanka will undoubtedly be affected. However, increased security and heightened vigilance should provide extra protection, especially at hotels.
The most recent update on the SmartTraveller site says;
“We have upgraded our level of advice to ‘Reconsider your need to travel’ to Sri Lanka.”
This is Smart Traveller’s second-highest rating next to “do no not travel” and roughly translated means “There are serious and potentially life-threatening risks that make the destination unsafe for tourism and unsuitable for most travellers,”
“Reconsider your need to travel to Sri Lanka. Multiple bomb blasts occurred at different hotels and churches in Sri Lanka on 21 April, including in Colombo, Negombo and Batticaloa. Australians are advised to avoid all affected areas and minimise movement until the situation stabilises.
A nationwide police curfew has been declared from 8pm on Monday 22 April 2019 to 4am on Tuesday 23 April 2019. Follow the advice of local authorities and monitor the media for updates. See Safety and security. Check with your tour operator for information on any disruptions to travel plans including accommodation.
Affected Australians should contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre in Canberra on +61 2 6261 3305 from overseas, or 1300 555 135 within Australia.
Get the latest information at SmartTraveller
TRAVEL TO THE MALDIVES IS NOT AFFECTED unless you are flying via Colombo to get there.
As was demonstrated by the recent hideous events in Christchurch, nowhere is immune to terror. It’s something the travelling public has become accustomed to in the world we now live in.
To date, it hasn’t stopped people from travelling to places like Paris, London, New York or Bali and this won’t stop people travelling to Sri Lanka.
Are flights into Colombo airport (CMB) affected?
At this stage, flights in and out of Bandaranaike International Airport (CMB) are operating normally, though there may be some delays.
Security has been bolstered at the Airport.
Departing passengers are now advised to arrive four hours before their flight to allow additional time to clear security formalities and be ready to present travel documents at checkpoints as necessary. Passengers can obtain a permission pass from airport police to travel during the curfew.
Check with your carrier for more details.
What about travel insurance?
Natalie Ball, director of Comparetravelinsurance.com.au, says that despite it being a listed exclusion, “generally speaking, even though many insurers will not cover cancellation due to acts of terrorism, the majority do have their customers best interests at heart and will judge each case on its own merit.”
Ball says that due to the upgraded threat levels, few travel insurance providers would cover those wanting to alter their travel plans and suggests that those with immediate travel plans should get in touch with their travel providers.
“Most insurance policies exclude cover for terrorist attacks. However, several on the market, including Insure4less, Travelinsuranz, and New Zealand provider TINZ, do give travellers provision to claim for cancellation if a governmental ‘do not travel’ warning was issued after you had purchased your policy.”
Additionally, many insurers will provide cover for medical expenses, including the cost to get you back home as a result of an injury from a terrorist attack.
EDITORS NOTE: We have deliberately not featured any pictures of the bombings or victims nor made any reference to who may have carried out the attacks as KARRYON has a policy and belief not to focus on amplifying the perpetrator’s cause.
- READ: STANDING TOGETHER: Sending love (and travellers) to the people of Christchurch
- READ: THE TIME WHEN; consultants visited caves and temples in Sri Lanka
- READ: Here’s Why You Should Suggest Sri Lanka Instead of Bali
Please join us in sending our love and thoughts to all those affected and to the good people of Sri Lanka.
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