ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, January 7, 2007
Vol. 41 - No 32

Bus turns into fire ball in peak hour blast
By Asif Fuard
Fear 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 was stable.

“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.


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Copyright 2006 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka.