Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 20 May 2019

Sri Lankan cricketer 'shattered' as he recounts church bombing horror

All-rounder, who skipped Easter service, says hometown of Negombo used to be safe until terror attack

Dasun Shanaka, right, skipped Easter service at St Sebastian's Church in his hometown of Negombo because of a long trip the day before. Lakruwan Wanniarachchi / AFP
Dasun Shanaka, right, skipped Easter service at St Sebastian's Church in his hometown of Negombo because of a long trip the day before. Lakruwan Wanniarachchi / AFP

Sri Lankan cricketer Dasun Shanaka barely survived one of the deadly blasts that killed more than 320 people in the island nation on Easter Sunday, and says the horrific scenes have left him "scared" to go out.

The 27-year-old all-rounder skipped Easter service at St Sebastian's Church in his hometown of Negombo because of a long trip the day before, he told ESPNcricinfo.

It was among six churches and hotels targeted by suicide bombers who killed 321 people and injured hundreds more - the worst violence seen in the country since a civil war ended a decade ago.

The government has blamed the attacks on Islamist militants.

"Normally I would have gone to church [but] I was tired," Shanaka told the website in comments published on Monday.

"That morning, when I was at my house, I heard a sound, and then people were saying a bomb had gone off at the church. I rushed there, and I'll never forget the scene.

"The entire church was destroyed, absolutely shattered, and people were dragging lifeless bodies outside."

The destruction at St Sebastian's was still visible Tuesday - parts of broken religious statues and smashed pews littered the floor - as funerals of victims were held.

More people are believed to have died in the blast at St Sebastian's than any of the other attacks, with the local hospital receiving more than 100 bodies.

"If you saw the scene, you would know there was no way anyone inside could have survived, because simply the debris from the blast had injured everyone even in the vicinity," Shanaka told ESPNcricinfo.

After the blast, the cricketer rushed to the church looking for his mother and grandmother, who were at the Easter service. Both survived, he said, but his grandmother required surgery because she was hit in the head with shrapnel.

Shanaka - who has played three Tests, 19 one-day internationals, and 27 Twenty20s for Sri Lanka - described his hometown as "a safe haven of sorts" where there have never been communal problems.

But he said the Easter blasts have shaken that sense of security. "I'm scared to go onto the streets," he added.

Updated: April 23, 2019 09:59 PM

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