Many Red Deer families were shocked and saddened to hear about the Easter bombing in Sri Lanka, says Chathura Bandara, president of the Central Alberta Sri Lankan Association.
Dozens gathered at Red Deer City Hall on Thursday night for a candlelight vigil to honour the 250-plus people killed in the attack on Easter Sunday.
“We can’t just go back to see anyone, it’s on the other side of the world – it’s a long way, it’s a 20-hour flight. We can’t do too much being away from our families,” Bandara said.
There are about 30 families in Red Deer originally from Sri Lanka. Having a candlelight vigil means a lot to those families, Bandara added.
“We had a really bad 30-year civil war that ended in 2009. Since then, there hasn’t been bloodshed – no shooting, no bomb blast or anything like that in our country.
“This is the first time we had anything like this in nine or 10 years, so we were shocked when we heard the news. At first, I thought maybe it was a hand grenade or something that killed two people, but it ended up being such a sad incident.”
On Thursday, Sri Lanka lowered the death toll to 253 – original reports estimated more than 350 people were killed.
Authorities are hunting for a least five more suspects and have braced for the possibility of more attacks in the next few days. At least 58 people have been arrested in connection with the wave of blasts at churches and luxury hotels on Easter Sunday.
Sri Lankan authorities have blamed a local Muslim militant group, National Towheed Jamaat. The Islamic State group has also claimed responsibility, though officials are still investigating the extent of any involvement.
–With files from The Associated Press