Fire-fighting at Taj hotel was delayed by security: official

November 29th, 2008 - 11:28 pm ICT by IANS  

Mumbai, Nov 29 (IANS) Fire officials had to wait for long outside the iconic Taj Mahal Hotel here before launching operation to douse the flames as security personnel prevented them from moving closer to the building from which terrorists were firing, officials said Saturday.”We reached the spot on time but were not allowed to go near the hotel for security reasons,” said J.A.H. Mallik, divisional fire officer,reacting to a statement by the hotel management.

“Security personnel did not allow them (fire officials) because there was intensive firing going on at the hotel,” he said, recalling the early hours of the crisis that started late Wednesday night.

“We got the first call (from the hotel management about fire) at 01.01 a.m. (Thursday), our fire engines started off from the Colaba fire station at 01.04 a.m., and reached the spot at 01.14,” Mallik told IANS.

He added that the hotel officials could not have seen the fire engines from inside and hence their statement about long delay in fire-fighting operations.

The fire on the top floor of the 105-year-old heritage building after an explosion blazed on the whole of Thursday, punctuated by blasts. It was brought under control late Thursday.

The terrorists had held a number of hostages, including foreigners, at the Taj as also at the nearby Trident Oberoi hotel and the Nariman house, all in south Mumbai.

The commando operation at the Taj ended only Saturday morning, with at least three terrorists killed.

Mallik said 12 fire engines were deployed at the Taj and 10 elsewhere in south Mumbai. They managed to provide safe release to about 200 people from the building, he said.

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