Hotel residents talk of chaos, panic and blood all over

November 27th, 2008 - 7:12 pm ICT by IANS  

New York, Nov 27 (IANS) Manuela Testonili, ex-wife of American pop singer Prince, was among those who along with 200 others were stuck in the dark ballroom of the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower Hotel for several hours, when terror struck Mumbai late Wednesday night. “We left everything behind, including purses and phones. There was a lot of panic,” she said.

New York-based filmmaker Smriti Mundhra and her parents, who were staying in an apartment near Oberoi hotel, when the attack happened, told CNN that they were all safe. They were given instructions by the police to stay at home with the doors locked and away from windows.

“Just as we were getting ready for bed last night, I heard a little bit of commotion on the street and some police sirens and didn’t really think much of it, then my parents came in and told me something was going on in the neighbourhood. So we watched the news and realized essentially there’s a terrorist attack happening just outside our door,” Mundhra said.

Held up in his room at the Taj Mahal hotel, British lawmaker Mark Abell told CNN that when he came back from dinner Wednesday night the security fences weren’t operating. “The hotel shook with an immense blast. Three or four minutes later, there was another large blast, the whole building shaking.”

As he looked outside, Abell saw the crowd running. “It was chaos, gunshots, it looked all very, very nasty,” Abell said.

Yasmin Wong, a CNN employee who was staying in the Taj, told the news network that she hid under her bed for several hours after she was awoken by gunfire. Wong said she received a phone call from the hotel telling her to turn her light off, put a wet towel by the door and stay in her room until she was told otherwise, CNN reported.

Peter Keep, a Mumbai-based entrepreneur told Wall Street Journal as he saw fire engulfing the Taj hotel. “It’s familiar, it’s iconic and even if it represents nothing more than a beautiful old building to see it ablaze like that is just shocking,” he said.

Farhang Jehani, owner of the Café Leopold was lucky to have survived the shootout inside his restaurant Wednesday night as terrorists killed people.

Between 9:30 and 9:45 p.m. Wednesday night, two gunmen who appeared to be in their mid 20s pull out machine guns and opened fire on the restaurant full of evening dinners. The crowd scattered but more than 10 people were shot, he said.

“There is blood all over and not one table is standing. They are all upside down,” he told The Wall Street Journal.

Noriyuki Kanda, sushi chef at the Wasabi restaurant in the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower Hotel, was holed up in the hotel for more than 12 hours. He told the Journal over phone from Mumbai he was working when he heard a lot of noise.

“I had only heard gunfire on television before so we weren’t sure what it was. Then we heard rapid fire like a machine gun and people rushed in from the bar downstairs and said that four men were shooting people in the lobby,” he said.

Kanda and his staff led the customers through the kitchen and the back hallways for employees, some of which were filled with smoke.

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