One of the worst attacks of its kind since 9/11.
As of Monday, a total of 290 people were confirmed to be killed (including several tourists) and some 500 injured after a terrorist attack was carried out in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday. The attack, which included a total of nine bomb blasts, is being reported as one of the worst of its kind since September 11. What should tourists do if they’re currently in Sri Lanka or have plans to travel there soon? We’ve compiled a few points of the best ways to safeguard yourself.
Here’s What We Know So Far
The blasts occurred at three hotels—the Shangri-La, the Cinnamon Grand, and the Kingsbury—St. Anthony’s Shrine in Colombo, St. Sebastian’s Church in Negombo, and at Zion Church in Batticaloa as churchgoers gathered for Easter Mass. Furthermore, a homemade pipe bomb was found on the roadside near Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport (HRI) mere hours after the above-mentioned attacks (fortunately, local authorities were able to safely defuse it).
While no official party has come forward to admit to the attacks, police have reportedly apprehended 13 suspects. Officials are saying suicide bombers from a local militant Muslim group are to blame.
The country’s president, Maithripala Sirisena, announced that Tuesday, April 23, would be a national day of mourning. The country is also implementing an emergency law that will allow police and authorities to detain suspects without a court order.
If You’re in Sri Lanka Right Now, Here’s What You Should Know
The U.S. State Department is warning that terrorists could still be active in the area, so they’ve issued a Level 2 travel advisory, which states that anyone traveling to Sri Lanka should “exercise increased caution.” “Be aware of your surroundings when traveling to tourist locations and crowded public venues,” the State Department warns. An 8 pm curfew has also gone into effect for citizens. If you’re flying out of Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) in Colombo, Sri Lanka’s capital, know that airport officials are asking travelers to arrive at least four hours before their flight is set to take off. If you’re scheduled to fly out (or in) during the curfew, know that you’ll be fine to do so as long as you have your passport and ticket in hand.
Additionally, you should monitor social media. While some networks—including Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram—have been temporarily blocked in Sri Lanka by the government because of “false news reports,” the shutdown has not affected Twitter, so we recommend following the State Department’s account for any important updates. For more updates, you can enroll in the State Department’s free Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) which provides U.S. citizens who are traveling with news on safety conditions in their destination country and helps the U.S. Embassy contact you in an emergency.
If You’re Traveling to Sri Lanka Soon
It’s unclear how long the travel advisory will last. For those (rightfully) concerned about any Sri Lanka travel plans they may have lined up, the good news is that airlines such as IndiGo and Air India are offering free cancellations and rescheduling for flights to and from Colombo.
If you do decide to go through with your travel plans, you might consider becoming a member of the crisis response service Medjet. The service will arrange a transfer to a hospital of a member’s home country (of their choice) if they’re hospitalized 150 miles (or more) from home. Medjet’s Horizon membership option also provides users with round-the-clock access to a crisis response network (that offers such benefits as legal assistance, emergency translation, and global evacuation) for a wide range of threats while traveling, including terrorism and crime. If you do decide to follow through with your travel plans, heed the State Department’s warnings and stay vigilant.