COLOMBO, Sri Lanka -- A bomb toppled Colombo's three-story central telegraph office today, killing at least nine people and injuring more than 140, authorities said.,
The blast came four days after a bomb destroyed an Air Lanka jet at Colombo Airport, killing 22 people. Authorities blamed Tamil separatists for the Air Lanka bombing, but have not speculated on who caused today's blast.
Members of an army bomb unit estimated 110 to 130 pounds of explosives were detonated on the open first floor of the wood frame building, constructed more than 90 years ago. The blast caused the upper two floors to collapse, killing six men and three woman.
'If it had been made of concrete and steel, I think more people would have died,' one police officer said.
A total of 74 people were hospitalized following the 9:15 a.m. blast, three of them in critical condition, while another 70 people were treated and released, authorities said.
No group immediately claimed responsiblity.
The damaged building was called the central telegraph office but in fact served as an adjunct to a more modern structure nearby where most of Sri Lanka's telex and telegraph switching equipment was located.
Most telex operations in the country were unaffected by the blast, officials said.
The central building's first floor contained a large office where people came to pay telex and telegraph bills.
The collapsed building is located less than 500 yards from the Cabinet office where government ministers usually meet on Wednesdays. However, because of a later parliamentary session, today's meeting was held about 1 mile away in the legislative chambers.
There have been several bombings in Colombo over the past few years, but today's was the most deadly blast in a building.
Saturday's blast occurred shortly before a Lockheed Tristar was due to depart with a planeload of European and Japanese tourists bound for the Maldive Islands.
Members of the Tamil ethnic group based mainly in northern Sri Lanka have been waging a bloody campaign for years to create a separate state on the island. The government in Colombo is controlled by Sinhalese, who are mostly Buddhists as opposed to the mainly Hindu Tamils.