Over 700 staff working in Sri Lanka safe: Kolkata firm (Lead)

Kolkata, April 23 (IANS) Hearing about the serial blasts in Sri Lanka on Sunday, a Kolkata-based real estate developer on Monday said he made anxious calls to find out the whereabouts of 700-800 Indian employees working at a Rs 2,000 crore project in the island country and finally took a sigh of relief after knowing all of them were safe.

Indocean Developers (Private) Ltd, a venture of South City Projects which itself is a consortium of six real estate groups based out of eastern India, has been developing a 240 metre skyscraper adjacent to Beira Lake in Colombo.

The project was "partially completed" and 700-800 staffers were working to complete it.

"It was a horrific news. We are constructing a iconic building at the heart of Colombo and the project has been partially completed and the balance is nearing completion. About 700-800 workers were sent to complete the projects. With God's grace, none of our staffs are injured or killed," Rameswara Group's founder Chairman and South City Projects Director Jugal Kishore Khetawat told IANS.

Condemning the terror attack, he expressed his doubt whether workers would continue their work amid the panic triggered after the incident.

"Safety of our staff is of the utmost importance," Khetawat said.

Sharing his experience over phone on Monday late evening from Sri Lanka, the ongoing project's Director C. Harendran who was at Shangri-La Hotel when the explosion occurred on Ester Sunday morning, told IANS: "I used to come to Colombo to see the progress of the project and was staying at the hotel. After completing my breakfast, I went to my room for taking medicines before leaving for construction site. I heard sound of two blasts at about 8.30 a.m."

When he tried to go down, Narendran found the lift was not working, even though it was all right about 10-15 minutes back.

"All of sudden, fire alarms started to ring and we came out from the hotel through an emergence escape route," he said while explaining how he escaped it.

Designed by renowned architect Moshe Safdie, the building, which house over 400 flats, is expected to be completed fully by May-June this year, Khetawat said, adding that the group is still hopeful of completing it in time.

Police and security agencies have been taking actions and things are expected to be normalise soon, he said.

Sri Lanka on Monday blamed a local Muslim outfit for the horrific Easter Sunday suicide bombings which killed 290 people, including eight Indians, and said the attacks were "a colossal intelligence failure".

Authorities said eight Indians were among the over 30 foreigners killed in the multiple explosions. Five of them were Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) activists from Karnataka who were on a holiday after the end of Lok Sabha elections in Bengaluru.

The first of the eight blasts took place on Sunday morning in three luxury hotels -- Cinnamon Grand, Shangri-la, Kingsbury -- in the heart of Colombo and in a church each in Colombo, Negombo, and in the Tamil-majority Batticaloa town in the island's east that was once a Tamil Tiger stronghold.

--IANS

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