Colombo: As Shantha Prasad carried children wounded in Sri Lanka’s deadly attacks into a Colombo hospital, memories of the country’s deadly civil war flooded back.
“I carried about eight wounded children yesterday,” he said on Monday, a day after a string of blasts hit hotels and churches, killing nearly 300 people.
“There were two girls aged six and eight, the same age as my daughters,” said Prasad, who helps carry stretchers into the hospital’s triage area and wards.
“Their clothes were torn and drenched in blood. It is unbearable to see this kind of violence again.” For many Sri Lankans, Sunday's attacks against churches and high-end hotels brought back painful memories of a conflict that lasted three decades and killed as many as 100,000 people.
During those years, bomb attacks were a regular occurrence, and left many Sri Lankans on edge in the streets and on public transport.
In the capital, street sweeper Malathi Wickrama said on Monday he was now nervous doing his job.
“Now we are afraid to even touch black plastic bags with garbage,” he said. “The string of blasts yesterday brings back memories of the time when we were afraid to go in buses or trains because of parcel bombs.”
With the lifting of a nationwide curfew early on Monday morning, people began to emerge into Colombo’s streets, where security was heavy.
Schools and the stock exchange are closed, but some shops opened their doors and public transport was functioning.
Imtiaz Ali, a tuk-tuk driver, was looking for customers in the capital, but said his family was in mourning over the death of his nephew in the blast that hit the Cinnamon Grand hotel.
Elsewhere in the city, some residents were making their way into work, determined to maintain a semblance of normality despite the tragedy. “We are resilient people,” said Nuwan Samarweera, a 50-year-old office worker.
“I woke up this morning and thought 'what can I do to help?'” said Churchill Karunaratne, 52, weeping as he laid flowers outside the church. He had rushed to the church after the blast a day earlier hoping to help and found scenes of horror. “I came after the blast and saw dead bodies everywhere,” said Karunaratne, a father-of-three. “My kids have seen it all on the TV and now they are very scared about going to church,” he added. “They are asking many questions such as 'where is God?'”