(The destruction caused by a mortar bomb which hit a house at Salawa on the edge of the Sri Lankan capital Colombo, seen on June 6, 2016, hours after explosion at an ammunition depot/AFP)
by Amal Jayasinghe.
The destruction caused by a mortar bomb which hit a house at Salawa on the edge of the Sri Lankan capital Colombo, seen on June 6, 2016, hours after explosion at an ammunition depot
Flying shrapnel triggered by explosions at an ammunition depot on the edge of Sri Lanka’s capital destroyed a hospital and hundreds of homes, sending thousands scrambling for cover, authorities said on Monday.
At least one soldier burnt to death in the worst ammunition depot fire in Sri Lanka’s history and nearly 50 people were treated for injuries or smoke inhalation, Colombo medical chief Palitha Mahipala said.
The fire was extinguished around 12 hours after it started on Sunday evening at the Salawa military complex, setting off explosions that went on through the night.
“The fire has been put out, but still there are intermittent explosions,” army spokesman Jayanath Jayaweera told AFP.
“That is why we are asking residents to keep away.”
Thousands of people living near the site were ordered to leave their homes and move to schools and temples.
“The Salawa hospital was evacuated soon after the fire and this morning we found that the hospital has been badly damaged,” a police officer at the scene told AFP.
“Fortunately, all the patients there were taken out in time.”
Government spokesman Rajitha Senaratne said the national security council would meet on Monday to review the blast.
“This is a military matter and they must investigate if this was an accident or sabotage,” said Senaratne.
– Lucky escape –
Businessman Neville Nishantha, 44, said he fled with his wife and three children as the explosions began and returned on Monday morning to see his house in ruins.
“A mortar bomb had gone through my roof and hit the living room,” Nishantha told AFP.
“A wall collapsed in the bedroom where my three children would have slept.”
“We are lucky to have escaped. All of us started running as the explosions began.”
Wasantha Fernando, 45, said he abandoned his home and ran as thick black smoke filled the area.
“When I got back this morning the entire place was covered in ash,” he said, adding that his walls had cracked and the house was unstable.