(From left) Red Deer’s Ashvitha and Prashanthi Rajanikanth upset over the recent bombings in Sri Lanka. Prashanthi, a Hunting Hills High School student, is raising money to help the victims in the recent incident. Photo by Mamta Lulla/Advocate staff

Red Deer teen raises money for victims in Sri Lanka after Easter bombings

A Red Deer teen is raising money to help the Sri Lankan victims of Easter’s bombings.

At least 290 people died and 500 were injured in nine bomb blasts Sunday in churches and hotels on the island south of India. Sri Lankan officials attributed the main attacks to seven suicide bombers from a militant Muslim group.

Prashanthi Rajanikanth, 17, came to Canada around 10 years ago and lives in Red Deer with her mom and dad.

Just last month, the teenager was in Sri Lanka driving around with her father, who showed her where bombings took place during the devastating civil war that ended about a decade ago.

The Hunting Hills High School student woke up Sunday around 5:30 a.m. and started a GoFundMe page to help victims with a goal of $1,000. Just before noon Monday, she had raised about $200.

Rajanikanth said she was very young during the civil war era. The teen grew up hearing stories of strife, such as when her father was in close proximity to the Colombo Central Bank bombing in 1996, where about 90 people died.

“It’s hard to watch because so many people in Sri Lanka have grown up seeing bombings and shootings and violence, and to see it all over again really brings back PTSD almost for some people,” she said.

The new turmoil is rough on the family. The teen said her father became very emotional watching what happened over the Easter weekend.

“My father started crying almost when he saw the news and he started calling everybody (extended family) to make sure they were OK,” she said, adding the bombing is taking place where her dad’s family lives.

Although none of her family members were injured, no one is sure what will happen next.

“My family is hanging by the thread – anything can be bombed,” the Grade 12 student said.

“It’s really worrisome because you don’t know when, what place can be bombed. My aunt is a doctor, so she has to go to work, and you don’t know if the hospitals will be bombed, because that has happened in the civil war,” she said.

The explosions — mostly in or around Colombo, the capital — collapsed ceilings and blew out windows, killing worshippers and hotel guests in one scene after another of smoke, soot, blood, broken glass, screams and wailing alarms.

The streets were largely deserted Monday morning, with most shops closed and a heavy deployment of soldiers and police. Stunned clergy and onlookers gathered at St. Anthony’s Shrine, looking past the soldiers to the stricken church.

The Red Deer teen said she visited that church with her family when she was young. As recently as last month’s visit to Sri Lanka, the teen took a tour of the church.

The Sri Lankan government initially lifted a curfew that had been imposed during the night, but reinstated it Monday afternoon.

Most social media remained blocked Monday after officials said they needed to curtail the spread of false information and ease tension in the country of about 21 million people.

With files from The Canadian Press


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