TOMPKINSVILLE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – The New York City Police Department urged New Yorkers to remain vigilant in the wake of deadly blasts in Columbo, Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka’s defense minister says seven people were arrested following the blasts that killed more than 200 people and left at least 450 injured.
The explosions in Columbo targeted three churches and three hotels popular with tourists.
So far, no group has claimed responsibility.
Sri Lankans were placed under a 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew in response to the blasts.
Here at home, the NYPD says it’s monitoring the events but says there is no known link to New York City at this time.
“We ask that you remain vigilant & report any suspicious activity,” NYPD Chief of Counterterrorism Chief James R. Waters tweeted.
“All that we can do right now is our prayers,” said Julia Wijesinghe, a resident of Staten Island’s Tompkinsville, home to a Sri Lankan-born population believed to be one of the largest in the United States.
Wijesinghe started this day with the shock and sadness of learning about the terror in her native land, reports CBS2’s Dave Carlin.
After she arrived at the restaurant owned by her father, she found she couldn’t get through on her usual ways of communicating with family there.
“All the social media are banned right now so right now it’s kind of hard to contact family members,” she said. “I have my whole family, my grandma and my cousins and brothers. Of what I know my family is fine, but we’re really devastated her for what happened to everyone else.”
Staten Island became popular with some Sri Lankans fleeing civil war and the financial crisis that followed.
In Staten Island’s west New Brighton neighborhood is the diverse congregation of Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church.
“My heart goes out to them,” said Rev. Eric Rapaglia. “I feel that at a time like this it’s very nice to see our community come together in prayer and also in support.”
People there are praying for Sri Lanka and aware that many houses of worship are now getting extra attention in terms of security.
“The local police are very responsive to our needs,” said Rapaglia. “We feel and see their presence and of course are blessed lady is protecting us and the angels.”
Police officers were visibly watching over of the Sri Lankan Art and Cultural Museum on Staten Island’s Canal Street. More officers were stationed outside a Buddhist temple on Staten Island’s John Street.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo order state police to increase patrols at churches and houses of worship after the attacks.
“New York grieves for the victims of the horrific attacks at churches and hotels in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday. On behalf of all New Yorkers, I extend my deepest condolences to the people of Sri Lanka, to the families who lost loved ones and to all those grieving around the world,” Cuomo said. “In the wake of these despicable acts of violence and out of an abundance of caution, I am directing State Police to increase patrols around churches and houses of worship across the state today. During these troubling times, we will not be intimidated by cowardly acts of violence and will continue to do everything in our power to ensure the safety of all New Yorkers.”