- Violence sparked by death of a Sinhalese Buddhist man
- Last time state of emergency was in place was during country's 26-year civil war
The special measures, enacted by the government Tuesday, will see soldiers deployed across the island for an initial 10-day period in a bid to prevent the unrest from spreading.
Violence has so far centered in and around the city of Kandy, located in the island's Central Province, where the death of a Sinhalese Buddhist youth on March 4, allegedly at the hands of a group of Muslim men, has sparked riots and arson attacks on Muslim businesses and mosques.
Sinhalese Buddhists make up about 75% of the population in Kandy.
A local Muslim politician, who did not want to be named through fear of reprisals, told CNN Wednesday that four mosques, 37 houses, 46 shops and 35 vehicles were destroyed in the initial outbreak of violence, though he cautioned the true number could be higher, with sporadic incidents continuing to flare-up.
Images shared on social media show widespread damage to Muslim areas of the city and nearby villages, with stores and businesses destroyed and buildings vandalized.
On Tuesday morning, the body of a 28-year-old Muslim man was pulled from the burned-out wreckage of a house set on fire the previous day by Sinhalese Buddhists in Aluthwatte, some 35 kilometers (21.7 miles) north west of Kandy.
"We want to make sure the communal violence doesn't spread all over Sri Lanka. We have to think about all the communities in the country. That is why the government imposed the state of emergency in the country to control the situation," Dayasiri Jayasekara, a government spokesperson, told CNN.