We heard gunfire, explosions shook building: Taj hotel staff

November 27th, 2008 - 6:37 pm ICT by IANS  

Mumbai, Nov 27 (IANS) Terror stricken staff members of the iconic Taj Mahal Palace and Tower Hotel, which was one of the 10 places in Mumbai attacked by terrorists, Thursday recalled the night of horror, saying they felt lucky to have survived the ordeal.”A bullet from somewhere just whizzed passed me…I just closed my eyes and instantly ducked,” S. Singh, a trainee at the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower Hotel, told IANS.

“When we saw the flames leaping out of the top floors of the hotel, we were stunned and speechless. Some of my colleagues rushed to whichever room was found open and locked themselves inside, shaking with fear,” he said.

“We could hear sounds of rapid gunfire at regular intervals. Explosions shook the old stone building, but we were clueless about what was going on,” Singh said.

Three of Mumbai’s best known police officers - Hemant Karkare, Ashok Kamte and Vijay Salaskar - were killed in the hotel while leading from the front in the battle against the terrorists Wednesday night. The militants killed at least 101 people and left over 250 injured as they went on the rampage in India’s financial capital.

Sunil, another Taj hotel staff member, said he was trapped on the first floor while security forces were engaged in a gunbattle with the terrorists.

“It was just unbelievable. I could have never imagined that I would witness such a major terrorist operation in my life. I feel it is God who saved my life,” he said.

Atul, a chef in the hotel, said he was near the main kitchen when the terrorists barged in.

“They had apparently come from the back end of the hotel and started indiscriminately firing from automatic weapons. They did not spare the kitchen. They fired some rounds there and also lobbed a grenade. However, we were lucky and survived,” he said.

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