Multiple explosions in Sri Lanka – what to do if you are caught up in a terrorist attack

Travellers’ options after the Sri Lankan terrorist attacks

  • Sri Lanka security increased and a curfew is in place
  • Travel insurance unlikely to cover cancelled Sri Lanka holidays
  • Airlines advise passengers who are leaving Sri Lanka to arrive early for check-in, in light of increased security screening

Eight British citizens are among around 300 people killed in suicide bombings at churches and luxury hotels in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday.

But news of further explosives being found in Colombo raises questions for the British tourists booked to travel to Sri Lanka over the next few days and weeks, and those seeking to leave.

  • If you have been directly affected by the attacks contact the Embassy in Colombo: +94 11 5390639.
  • If you are in the UK and are concerned about family or friends who are caught up in the incidents in Sri Lanka, call 020 7008 1500 for further information.

Foreign Office Advice

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s website says terrorists are very likely to carry out attacks in Sri Lanka. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places visited by foreigners.  It warns that there is a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria and appeals to travellers to be vigilant at this time.

Security has been stepped up across the island and there are ongoing security operations. These may continue for a number of days and the situation remains dynamic. The FCO urges visitors to follow the advice of local security authorities, hotel security staff and your tour company.

However, the Foreign Office is not warning tourists to avoid travelling to Sri Lanka. Had it done so, then British travel firms would immediately have had to launch a rescue airlift to fly home UK holidaymakers. As it is, there is no automatic entitlement to an early departure and travel insurance policies are unlikely to payout to those tourists who change their mind about travelling to Sri Lanka, unless the FCO specifically advises against travel to the destination.

The FCO confirms that the airport is operating, but with increased security checks and long queues for taxi pick-ups. Some airlines are advising their passengers to arrive early for check-in, in light of increased security screening. Colombo Airport is operating, but with increased security checks and long queues for taxi pick-ups. The Sri Lankan authorities have confirmed that passengers with a passport and flight ticket for the day of travel can travel to the airport during curfew periods.  Check with your airline about suggested check-in times.

There is a nationwide dawn til dusk curfew and tourists should limit movements until this has been lifted, following the instructions of the local authorities and your hotel/tour operator.

If you need to catch a flight from Colombo airport, you are able to travel to the airport provided you have both passport and ticket valid for travel that day.

What to do if you get caught up in an incident

If you do get caught up in a firearms or weapons attack you should run to a safe place if at all possible. This is far better than to surrender or negotiate. If there’s nowhere to go then hide remembering to turn your phone to silent (also turn off vibrate) and barricade yourself in if you can. Then finally and only when it’s safe should you contact the police.

Counter Terrorism Police UK has produced a video which tells you exactly what to do to keep safe in the event of an incident.

 

RUN

If there’s a safe route – run

Insist others go with you

Don’t let their indecision slow you down

Leave belongings behind

HIDE

If you can’t run to safety, hide

Be aware of your exits

Find cover from gunfire

Try not to get trapped

Lock yourself in a room if possible

Barricade yourself in

Keep away from doors and windows

Be quiet and silence your phone

TELL

Call the police when it is safe

Give your location

Give the direction the attacker(s) is moving in

Describe the attacker

 

If you’d like to know more about terrorism and staying safe, personal safetyairport safety and what to do if you need medical help, see our guides.

Terrorism & staying safe

 

Published on 23/04/19

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