American and Brits in Sri Lanka frantically send messages to families and loved ones to inform they are safe
Most of the foreign tourists were killed in the blasts that were reported from the five-star hotels - the Shangri-La, the Cinnamon Grand and the Kingsbury.
At least 290 people were killed and hundreds more injured as several churches and hotels were rocked by simultaneous explosions on Easter Sunday in Sri Lanka. The dead included dozens of foreigners — with British, Dutch, American and Japanese citizens believed to be among them. Most of the foreign tourists were killed in the blasts that were reported from the five-star hotels — the Shangri-La, the Cinnamon Grand and the Kingsbury.
Soon after the attacks, tourists on the Classic Sri Lankan tour hurriedly took to their cellphones to text family and loved ones around the world that they were OK after the blasts.
The group was on a 15-day tour of the tropical island nation, seeing sites including huge Buddhist monuments, tea plantations, jungle eco-lodges and famed sandy beaches.
The tour started last week in Negombo, a majority Catholic town north of Colombo where one of the blasts hit a church. It was to end in Colombo, but tour operators said the group may change its itinerary and decide to skip Colombo in light of the attacks.
As the nearest major town to the country's main airport, Negombo is a gateway for many travelers visiting Sri Lanka. Although not among the country's top beach destinations, it is home to plenty of hotels and resorts popular with foreign visitors.
"Having experienced the open and welcoming Sri Lanka during my last week travelling through the country, I had a sense that the country was turning the corner, and in particular those in the tourism industry were hopeful for the future," said Peter Kelson, 41, a technology manager from Sydney. "Apart from the tragedy of the immediate victims of the bombings, I worry that these terrible events will set the country back significantly."
Meanwhile, the US embassy in Colombo issued an immediate travel advisory for American tourists in the country, asking them to follow instructions from local authorities. The advisory has also asked Americans to take "shelter in place and exercise extreme caution."
The UK also issued a travel advisory shortly after, asking Britons to follow the same instructions. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office, UK said while issuing a notice for people traveling to and from Sri Lanka: "There have been a number of explosions in Sri Lanka, including Colombo, on Sunday 21 April. Please follow the instructions of local security officials and follow travel advice for updates."