feared dead in Wilpattu Park blast
Seven local visitors and a wildlife guard were feared killed when
their vehicle was hit by an explosion yesterday inside the Wilpattu
National Park, Wildlife Chief Dayananda Kariyawasam said.
The locals had come to the park on Friday and
booked the circuit bungalow at Kokmote for two days. They had set
off on a sightseeing tour around 9 am. yesterday. The explosion,
believed to be triggered by a landmine, reportedly occurred shortly
He said eyewitnesses had reported that the explosion
occurred around 10 a.m. some 50 kilometres from the main gate of
the park. However, he said details were still scanty and a clear
picture of what took place would emerge only today.
The family caught in the explosion are from Rosmead
Place, Colombo-7. Neighbours identified them as Pereras. Officials
had visited the home of the victims last evening and informed the
neighbours that the tour party had gone sightseeing and failed to
return to the bungalow by evening.
However, they had not given details of what had
happened to them.
The tour party included some people who had arrived on holiday to
Sri Lanka. They had left the bungalow in two separate vehicles,
a pick-up and a Prado jeep. But mid way into the journey, they had
parked the pick-up and all boarded the ill-fated vehicle.
Of the nine persons who travelled from Colombo,
two had stayed back at the bungalow. When they were informed about
the blast, they also ventured into the park and the whereabouts
of them were also not known, Mr. Kariyawsam said.
Nochiyagama Police told The Sunday Times a team
had been sent to investigate the blast but had returned as they
could not locate the site. Wildlife officials also had not gone
into the area, fearing LTTE presence.
Mr. Kariyawasam said he had sought the assistance of the Sri Lanka
Monitoring Mission (SLMM) to accompany wildlife officials to visit
SLMM spokesperson Helen Olofsdottir said that although they had
been informed of the incident they were not sure whether they would
visit the site today.
All four circuit bungalows at the park were full
during the weekend with nearly 40 guests occupying them. Several
parts of the park are known to be infiltrated by the LTTE as it
borders areas of Mannar.
The park was opened to the public in 2003 after
the cessation of hostilities between the Government and the LTTE
but certain areas of the park are still considered unsafe for visitors.