'There's no words': Winnipeg's Sri Lankan community gathers after bombings

Members of Winnipeg’s Sri Lankan community gathered Sunday to pray for the victims of Sunday morning’s deadly bomb attacks that left more than 200 people dead in Sri Lanka.

Special prayer ceremony held to acknowledge those who have departed

A Buddhist ceremony acknowledging those who have departed called a puja was held in Winnipeg Sunday for the victims of Sunday morning’s deadly bomb attacks in Sri Lanka. (Travis Golby/CBC)

Members of Winnipeg's Sri Lankan community gathered Sunday to pray for the victims of Sunday morning's deadly bomb attacks that left more than 200 people dead in Sri Lanka.

Roughly 50 people came to a Buddhist ceremony acknowledging those who have departed called a puja, held at the Manitoba Buddhist Vihara and Cultural Association.

"We wanted to have special prayers and a special message that we want to send to the community that we care for the devastation that took place in Sri Lanka," said association president Upul Herath.

"We felt it was an obligation to make sure we have our own community get together."

Manitoba Buddhist Vihera and Cultural Association president Upul Herath said he was devastated to learn of Sunday's attacks. (Travis Golby/CBC)

At last count Sunday evening 207 were dead and hundreds of others were injured in the near simultaneous and co-ordinated bombings at churches and luxury hotels in the South Asian island country.

Three of the blasts targeted St. Anthony's Church in Colombo, St. Sebastian's Church in the western coastal town of Negombo and another, the Zion church in the eastern town of Batticaloa around 8.45 a.m. local time as the Easter Sunday mass was in progress, according to police.

Three other explosions were reported from the five-star hotels — the Shangri-La, the Cinnamon Grand and the Kingsbury in Colombo. Foreigners and locals who were injured in hotel blasts were admitted to the Colombo General Hospital.

Sri Lankans carry a dead body at St. Sebastian's Church damaged in blast in Negombo, north of Colombo, Sri Lanka, Sunday, April 21, 2019. More than hundred were killed and hundreds more hospitalized with injuries from eight blasts that rocked churches and hotels in and just outside of Sri Lanka's capital on Easter Sunday, officials said, the worst violence to hit the South Asian country since its civil war ended a decade ago. (AP Photo/Chamila Karunarathne) (Chamila Karunarathne/Associated Press)

Those killed included 32 foreigners, government officials said.

Hours later, two more blasts occurred as police moved to Dematagoda on the outskirts of Colombo and occupants of a house apparently set off explosives to prevent being arrested.

Thirteen people have been arrested.

"When I heard the devastation and I knew that there were so many people affected, there's no words to describe how devastating this can be," said Herath before the ceremony started in Winnipeg Sunday.

"You never imagine something like this, yet, when things like this happen, we need to act quickly and do what we need to do."

Sri Lanka reels from a series of co-ordinated bomb attacks on several churches and luxury hotels on Easter Sunday. 0:40

Herath said no members of Winnipeg's close-knit Sri Lankan community that he has spoken to have friends or family directly affected by the attacks.

But he said the community felt the need to gather in prayer.

"We all unite together when we have to combat something like this," he said.

"We certainly have a united front."

The puja was held at the Manitoba Buddhist Vihera and Cultural Association’s Cadboro Road temple. (Travis Golby/CBC)

In a tweet Sunday, Winnipeg mayor Brian Bowman said he was deeply saddened by the attacks.

"On this day of renewal, Winnipeggers thoughts and prayers are with all those affected in Sri Lanka, in our community and around the world," he said. 

There were no immediate claims of responsibility for the attacks in a country which was at war for decades with Tamil separatists until 2009, a time when bomb blasts in the capital were common.

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With files from Thomson Reuters