Thursday 01, February 1996
By Panduka Senanayake
( 24K ) - ( 26.5K )
Over 50 people were killed and over 1250 wounded in a truck bomb explosion suspected to have been set off by suicide bombers of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in Colombos city centre of Fort at about 10.50 a.m. Wednesday.
The explosion, aimed at the Central Bank Headquarters at Jandhipathi Mawatha, housing the President's House and the Navy Headquarters in addition to several other banks and key buildings, devastated the buildings on a stretch of road about 200 yards.
"We have got a confirmed death toll of 52, and 1253 wounded'',a senior police officer said adding that there was a possibility of the death toll rising."We don't know whether there are any people trapped under the debris,we will know once we start clearing the debris," he said.Hospital sources said that 970 people were warded.
According to initial reports gathered from eye witness accounts, a lorry packed with explosives and escorted by some men-suspected to be LTTE suicide bombers, in a tri-shaw (Three wheeled scooter) clearing their way by firing small arms- had crashed into the front of the Central Bank Headquarters.Defence officials said that the men in the tri-shaw had fired a disposable Rocket Propelled Grenade (RPG) at a metal barrier in front of the Bank to clear a path for the lorry to crash into the building.
The blast, brought down the entire front section of the Central bank building while also severely damaging the other buildings on the opposite side of the road.Several floors of the 13 storeyed, Ceylinco House, once the tallest building in the city which is right opposite the bank and several other buildings caught fire immediately after the blast, eye witnesses said.
As fire fighters, police, security forces personnel and members of private security firms in adjacent buildings rushed in,to assist the wounded and remove them to hospital, police assisted by alert members of the public arrested two suspected rebels in a hi-jacked tri-shaw, who are believed to have escorted the explosives packed lorry, near the Fort Railway Station,close to the scene of the blast.
A senior military officer assesing the damage said that about 200 kilos of high explosives would have been used in the blast.
Air Force helicopters and the skylift of the Colombo Firebrigade were used to rescue the people trapped on the top floors of the buildings by the fires raging at the lower floors.
Reuters, the international newsagency housed in a building opposite the bank was also affected by the blast,However, none of the Reuter staffers were wounded.The blast had spread upwards and outwards in the confined space of the road bordered by tall buildings.
The blast also led to some damage and the caving in of the roof of the Observer editor's room of the state owned Associated newspapers of Ceylon Ltd, some 300 yards away.However no one was injured.
Meanwhile a laminated card, found at the scene had carried the message that the vehicle was carrying 4000 kilos of explosives and any attempt to stop it would lead to the detonation of the explosives.
"The message was in Sinhala, Tamil and English and we
believe that the terrorists planned to show this card if they
were stopped on the way," said a senior police officer.