New Delhi :
After a string of eight powerful blasts, including suicide attacks, struck three churches and luxury hotels frequented by tourists in Sri Lanka, the government on Sunday blocked social media platforms, including Facebook and Instagram to prevent the spread of false news reports across the country.
Issuing a statement, the Presidential Secretariat said, the decision to block social media was taken in reaction to false news reports spreading on social media, adding that the embargo will continue until comprehensive investigations by the security forces into the explosions were concluded.
"President @MaithripalaS appealed to the nation to act with utmost restraint and patience, and not to be misled by baseless rumors and false stories," President Sirisena's office tweeted.
Meanwhile, Facebook has activated its Crisis Response tool for the blasts, providing a repository for news about the incident, and allows people to mark themselves safe and search for friends who may have been affected.
Sri Lankan law enforcement have urged the public to stay indoors following the blasts. They asked that bystanders not gather at the explosion sites or outside the hospitals where the injured are being brought, according to government official news portal News.LK.
It also reported that passengers departing from Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) will need to be present at the airport at least four hours prior to their departure time, to account for extra security processes.
Sri Lankan Airlines, which is the ground handling agent for all airlines, added that only passengers will be allowed inside the airport terminal. The airport is located to the north of the capital Colombo, on the outskirts of the city of Negombo, which was the site of at least one bombing this morning.
The blasts - one of the deadliest attacks in the island nation's history - left over 200 people dead and 500 others injured, including dozens of foreigners - British, Dutch and American citizens among others.
The brutal act of terror targeted St Anthony's Church in Colombo, St Sebastian's Church in the western coastal town of Negombo and a church in the eastern town of Batticaloa around 8.45 a.m. (local time) as the Easter Sunday mass were in progress.
Explosions were also reported from three five-star hotels - the Shangri-La, the Cinnamon Grand and the Kingsbury in Colombo, shattering a decade of peace in the island nation after the end of the brutal civil war with the LTTE.
(With inputs from PTI)