British Columbia

British Columbia's Sri Lankan community reacts to deadly Easter Sunday explosions

British Columbians with ties to Sri Lanka say they are standing in solidarity with the victims of Sunday's bombing attack.

'It's unbelievable. I would never expect something like this'

A Sri Lankan police officer inspects a blast spot at the Shangri-la hotel in Colombo, Sri Lanka. (Chamila Karunarathne/Associated Press)

Members of British Columbia's Sri Lankan community say they are standing in solidarity with the victims of Sunday's deadly explosions in the South Asian country.

At least 310 people were killed and at least 450 hospitalized after a series of bombings on Easter Sunday. Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe says eight people have been arrested in connection with the near-simultaneous blasts in and around the capital of Colombo and the town of Batticaloa.

Sam Nalliah, coordinator of the British Columbia Tamil Congress, worries his cousin was in Colombo during the explosion. 

Victims lie inside St. Sebastian's Church, which was damaged by a blast in Negombo, north of Colombo, Sri Lanka. (Chamila Karunarathne/Associated Press)

Nalliah, who lives in the Lower Mainland, says his cousin works at the Cinnamon Grand Colombo, a luxury hotel where one of the bombs exploded.

"I don't know if he was killed," said Nalliah. "I can't even message him."

When he learned the hotel was one of the bombing sites, Nalliah said he became distressed.

"He was the general manager there, and he's recently been appointed CEO," said Nalliah. "It's unbelievable. I would never expect something like this."

The Tamil people trace their ancestry to Sri Lanka, and currently make up a portion of the country's population.   

The University of British Columbia's Sri Lanka student association said the attacks must be condemned, regardless of ethnic, religious or political affiliations. Many of the explosions occurred at Christian churches.

Association member Eshantha Teiris is a Sri Lankan student studying in Vancouver. He said he felt shock and disbelief when he heard of the attack.

Eshantha Teiris is a Sri Lankan student studying at UBC. (GP Mendoza/CBC)

"Most of us were up all of last night trying to comprehend what was going on," said Teiris. "We weren't expecting this."

"Given the scope of the attack I wouldn't be surprised if there's other members of the Sri Lankan diaspora in B.C. who have been directly affected."

British Columbia Premier John Horgan issued condolences via social media.

"We condemn in the strongest possible terms these acts of terror. We must stand together and fight the rise of extremism and hate," said Horgan.

With files from GP Mendoza and Claudia Goodine

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