Hoosier visiting family in Sri Lanka offers medical aid to bombing victims

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Dr. Puja Amarasinghe, a Sri Lankan native and PhD candidate at IUPUI in Indianapolis, was visiting family in Colombo, Sri Lanka, when deadly blasts shook her hometown and two other cities.

She spoke with News 8 via Skype hours after the explosions left more than 200 people dead and hundreds more injured.

“I’m afraid to go outside and travel on roads at the moment,” Amarasinghe said. “It’s scary being here.”

She arrived in Sri Lanka three days before the wave of Easter Sunday attacks tore through churches and hotels in Colombo, Negombo and Batticaloa.

Amarasinghe and her husband had planned their monthlong trip to Colombo to celebrate Sinhalese New Year with relatives.

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They were at a New Year’s gathering Sunday morning with friends and family when they learned about the bombings.

“We were doing the games [and] traditional things,” Amarasinghe told News 8. “Suddenly, we heard this incident and all the things were canceled. All the people went home and people ran to help the others.”

She rushed to a local hospital to help treat the wounded, she said.

Prior to her time in Indianapolis, Amarasinghe had served as a physician in Sri Lanka for more than a decade in various community settings.

She also volunteered on medical relief trips, including stints in war zones and tsunami-ravaged disaster zones.

Despite her experience, Amarasinghe said she was still shaken by the gruesome aftermath of Sunday’s attacks.

“Each and every person — irrespective of their race, language and what their religion (is) — we all are afraid at the moment,” she said.

She was “relieved” her teenage daughter had stayed behind in Indiana to finish the school year, she added.

Her parents were also safe from the attacks in Australia, where they live with Amarasinghe’s sister. 

She smiled as she discussed her family with News 8. 

“My mother is a Catholic and my father is a Buddhist,” Amarasinghe said. “But they live in harmony.”

As a medical professional, Amarasinghe is exempt from the Sri Lankan government’s indefinite nighttime curfew. 

She is prepared at all hours of the day for calls from the hospital and said she plans to spend the rest of her vacation “doing anything possible” to help the bombing victims.