Sixteen-year-old Primasha Fernando’s eyes glazed with tears as she struggled to recall the horror of what she witnessed in the aftermath of the Easter Sunday bombing at St. Sebastian’s Church in Negombo, a majority Catholic city in Sri Lanka.
“Some mothers were taking the small babies in the hand and they have died together. Very noiseful. People were shouting crying. I can’t say that,” she said in an interview shaking her head unable to articulate the horror of a scene she pictured in her mind.
“I saw some people that they had hair, everything the body but the face is missing. Just crushed to the roof tiles and some mothers were taking small babies in the hand and they have died together. It was the worst situation. Full of blood smell. The walls were full of blood. Spread everywhere. The whole church was blood. It was a bad situation,” Fernando recalled.
As of Monday, officials confirmed that 290 people had died after eight bombing attacks in three churches and three hotels in Sri Lanka as Christians observed the culmination of Holy Week Sunday.
Suicide bombers targeted, St. Anthony’s Shrine in Colombo, the capital; St. Sebastian’s Church in Negombo, about 20 miles north of Colombo; and Zion Church in the eastern city of Batticaloa, The New York Times said. High-end hotels frequented by foreigners in Colombo, the capital, including the Shangri-La, the Cinnamon Grand and the Kingsbury were also attacked.
It was at St. Sebastian’s however where at least 150 people died The New Yorker said.
“The hospital, it was a cemetery,” at hotel manager in Negombo named Jude said.
Dilip Fernando, a 66-year-old retiree told AFP that he normally worships at St Sebastian’s church but when he arrived there on Sunday the church was already packed.
“Yesterday me and my wife arrived at 7:30 am but it was so crowded there was no place for me. I didn’t want to stand so I left and went to another church,” he said of the decision he believes may have saved his life.
Seven members of Fernando’s extended family including his in-laws and two of his two granddaughters chose to stay at St. Sebastian’s where they believe they saw the suicide bomber before the explosion at the church.
“At the end of the mass they saw one young man go into the church in with a heavy bag,” Fernando said. “He touched my granddaughter’s head on the way past. It was the bomber.”
Fernando’s family said the bomber looked to be around 30 and “very young and innocent.”
“He was not excited or afraid. He was so calm,” he said his family told him.
As soon as the suicide bomber enter the church the explosion went off and his family, who luckily were only able to watch the service from outside the church were able to scramble away unhurt.
“They heard it and quickly ran away, they were so afraid. They called me immediately to ask if I was inside the church, but by then I was in a different church,” Fernando said.
Those inside the church weren’t so lucky and Fernando is thankful for his blessing.
“I’m so lucky because normally I would go to this church. We are relieved, we were so lucky but we’re really sad for the whole village,” he said.