turns into fire ball in peak hour blast
gripped the town of Nittambuwa in the wake of a bomb blast that
ripped through a bus plying from Nittambuwa to Giriulla, killing
five and injuring scores. People were seen closing shop and hurrying
home as the tragedy struck during peak hours of the evening.
Frightened passengers were seen at the main bus
stand, while police conducted search operations.
The Gampaha police division imposed a curfew from 10 p.m. on Friday
till 6 a.m. yesterday to prevent any racial backlash as there were
reports of mobs stoning some shops owned by Tamils in Nittambuwa.
Gampaha SSP Shantha Rajapakse said appropriate
action would be taken against those who fuel racial violence, however
no arrests were made as things appeared to have quietened down.
Nittambuwa and Attanagalla were like ghost towns as most shops put
up shutters after the blast.
Police later carried out a cordon and search operation
in the area to find clues relating to the blast that the government
has blamed on the LTTE. The LTTE has denied any involvement. The
fateful private bus bearing the number plate WP NA 0137 had left
the Nittambuwa bus station at 6.20 in the evening. It had around
70 passengers on board and had passed four bus halts when it exploded
at 6.45 p.m.
So far there have been no witness accounts on
who could have planted the bomb on board. According to the Government
Analyst who visited the scene the bomber had used a C-4 plastic
explosive weighing about two Kg. he is yet to ascertain if the bomb
was on a timer or a remote detonator. Within an hour of the explosion
the STF Bomb Disposal Unit arrived on the scene and were seen examining
the bus to find if there were any improvised explosive devises.
According to them the bomb had been placed on top
of a rack in the bus. The impact of the explosion had ripped the
roof and side of the bus. They believe if the bomb had been kept
on the seat of the bus it would have cause greater death and destruction.
Police investigations have revealed that the bus
is owned by A.S. Kumari from Maharagama and it does about two trips
from Nittambuwa to Giriulla on a daily basis. Police also revealed
that the regular driver of the bus identified as “Nana”
had taken leave on Friday and was due to report back to work on
Monday. A substitute driver, Nimal Hettiarachi had been asked to
work his shift.
The driver when questioned by the police says
he faintly remembers a group of people boarding the bus. He believes
that they had paid the conductor and asked for tickets to Giriulla.
The only factor that could be suspicious about their actions was
that they had got down after two bus halts, he said.
The nearest hospital in Wathupitiwala had about 40 injured people
warded while 18 other were critical. There were scenes of pandemonium
as people were attempting to make their way in to the hospital in
spite of the tight security.
The critically wounded were transferred to the
Gampaha Hospital and the National Hospital. A 14 year old boy traveling
from Nittambuwa to Giriulla after attending a science class was
seen lying in the morgue with four others who were burnt to death.
His farther who rushed to the hospital was seen breaking down on
seeing the body.
Passengers who caught a ride in this deadly bus
had their own tragic tal to relate. Ruwani Kanchana who was covered
with the blood of her son, lying in the hospital bed next to her
said she was to get down at the next halt but before she could do
so she heard a loud noise and the bus turned into a ball of fire.
“I was seated two rows behind the bus driver.
I first heard a loud explosion and then I saw flames all over. I
grabbed my son who was unconscious and bleeding and I ran out of
the burning bus,” she said.
Little Kusum (9) looks on at his twin brother Kumudu who had sustained
minor injuries in the blast, being examined by the doctor. The mother
heaved a sigh of relied as the doctor said Kumudu’s condition
“Kumudu and I got into the bus from the
the drivers end while Kusum got in from the rear end. If Kusum had
boarded from our end he might have got caught to the full impact
of the blast. It was a miracle that he got in from the other other
end,” Kamani the mother of the twins said.
“I was returning home from Nittambuwa town
after work with my friend when we hopped this bus. When I was about
to pay the conductor there was a massive explosion. Fragments from
the bus window hit my face. I saw my friend unconscious and bleeding.
I held on to him and struggled to get out of the bus that was in
flames,” Navin said.
The blast comes in the backdrop of the LTTE warning
the government that there would be 'serious repercussions' for the
alleged killing of over dozen Tamil civilians in Mannar.