76 dead in Mumbai attacks, situation grave: Deshmukh

November 27th, 2008 - 7:18 am ICT by IANS  

Shivraj PatilMumbai, Nov 27 (IANS) Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh early Thursday said the situation in Mumbai was grave following a series of terrorist attacks that killed at least 76 people Wednesday night. “The situation in grave and we are keeping an eye on it,” Deshmukh told reporters early in the morning.

However, police officials said the death toll was more than 80 and over 250 people were injured.

The chief minister said heavy security arrangements were in place and five columns of the Indian Army and two teams of naval commandos were deployed in the city after unidentified groups of terrorists struck in yet another series of planned and synchronised attacks in the heart of India’s financial capital.

He said central Home Minister Shivraj Patil and Home Secretary Madhukar Gupta would be in Mumbai along with 200 National Security Guard (NSG) commandos Thursday morning.

Terrorists struck at at least seven places. According to police, a group of terrorists opened fire at police and paramilitary forces outside the Hotel Taj Intercontinental in south Mumbai between 10.15 p.m. and 10.30 p.m.

The police officials said an unspecified number of guests and staff were stranded in the beseiged hotel. At least 90 percent of the 22-storey building was plunged into darkness as authorities cut off power in a precautionary measure. In the wee hours of Thursday, there was an explosion on the top floor of the hotel, leading to a major fire.

Bullets were also fired near the Hotel Trident - another five-star hotel barely a kilometre away from the Taj. Part of the hotel was also said to be on fire.

At least 1,000 tourists were inside the hotel, which is in a high-security zone and lies just behind the Air India and Maharashtra legislature buildings.

The police and the army have launched rescue operation to evacuate the hostages even as the chief minister said the “situation at Trident and Taj is not fully under control”.

Deshmukh assured people that his government would take stringent action against the culprits.

He asked people to remain indoors and maintain peace.

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