Three churches and three hotels hit by near simultaneous explosions, killing at least 138 people in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday.
A series of bombings hit luxury hotels and churches in Sri Lanka, killing at least 138 people and wounding about 400 as worshippers were attending Easter Sunday services.
Three of the explosions took place in Catholic churches while three other explosions were reported in luxury hotels – the Cinnamon Grand, Kingsbury and Shangri-La – located in the heart of Colombo.
The first explosion was reported in a church located in the capital. The other blasts followed within half an hour.
One of the churches targetted was St Anthony’s in Colombo. The other two were St Sebastian’s in Negombo, about 30km from the capital and another in Batticaloa, 250 km east of the capital.
St Sebastian’s posted pictures of destruction inside the church on its Facebook page, showing blood on pews and the floor, and requested help from the public.
An official at the Batticaloa hospital told AFP news agency more than 300 people had been admitted with injuries following the blast there.
Police spokesperson Ruwan Gunasekera said that the injured were being evacauted while security forces have cordoned off the areas and search operations are under way.
Photos circulating on social media showed the roof of one church had been blown almost entirely off in the blast.
The floor was littered with a mixture of roof tiles, splintered wood and blood.
Several people could be seen covered in blood, with some trying to help those with more serious injuries.
Sri Lanka’s Minister of Economic Reforms and Public Distribution, Harsha de Silva, said in a tweet on his verified account that an emergency meeting would be called in a few minutes.
“Emergency meeting called in a few minutes. Rescue operations underway,”
He said he had been to two of the attacked hotels and was at the scene at St Anthony’s Shrine and described “horrible scenes”.
“I saw many body parts strewn all over,” he tweeted, adding that there were “many casualties including foreigners”.
“Please stay calm and indoors,” he added.
Only around six percent of mainly Buddhist Sri Lanka is Catholic, but the religion is seen as a unifying force because it includes people from both the Tamil and majority Sinhalese ethnic groups.
Al Jazeera’s Minelle Fernandez, reporting from Colombo, said the crisis was still unfolding.
“We’re hearing that Colombo national hospital is still receiving casualties brought in from the multiple locations.
“In terms of law enforcement, we’ve been hearing that all festivities have been canceled, that security in and around the city has been tightened,” Fernandez reported.
“It’s still very open-ended; it’s too early (to speculate who is behind the attack) but security in the capital and the airport has been stepped up following the attacks” she added.
There were no immediate claims of responsibility.