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Witnesses Describe Attacks On Mumbai


It's Morning Edition from NPR News on Thanksgiving morning. I'm Steve Inskeep. Here's one more detail of the investigation of India's terror attacks. The Indian navy says it is boarding a ship in the waters off the city of Mumbai. Authorities have been asking if gunmen might have come by boat on their way to strike hotels and other targets in that giant city. One target was a luxurious waterfront hotel, the Taj Mahal. Another was a pair of connected luxury hotels, the Trident Oberoi. At last report, police are still moving room to room looking for victims or gunmen after attacks that killed more than one hundred people. We called two people in Mumbai today, including Smriti Mundhra, an American filmmaker.

Ms. SMRITI MUNDHRA (Filmmaker): As I was getting ready for bed last night, I noticed some commotion down on the street below and police sirens and things like that. So I didn't think much of it because things like this happen in Bombay from time to time. But when I turned the news on, I realized what was going on. But there was sort of a confusion of gunfire and bomb blasts in the neighborhood here where I'm staying. And as the evening wore on and I got more information from the news, I realized that situation at the Oberoi hotel and at the Taj Mahal hotel, both of which are a mere two minutes from my flat in South Bombay.


INSKEEP: And so the entire neighborhood was engulfed with anxiety about all this.

Ms. MUNDHRA: Yes, absolutely.

INSKEEP: We should mention that you're an American filmmaker. And you also refer to the city as Bombay, which is helpful for Americans to be reminded that this is the city once known as Bombay, now the formal name is Mumbai. Let's get another person on the line. Sara Rajan is a journalist, and she was also near the hotels at the time the attacks began. Can you describe what you have seen in the last 24 hours?

Ms. SARA RAJAN (Journalist): Well, the first we sort of knew that there was something wrong was around a little past 10 last night. We heard - I, again, live about five minutes down the road from the Trident and the Oberoi on Marine Drive. And we heard two - what seemed like - crackers going off. We realized that there was something wrong because there was no one on Marine Drive that was making noise. We turned on the television and realized that the whole of South Mumbai was sort of under siege. I was out this morning. I went to the Taj as well as to the Trident and the Oberoi, and the situation at the Taj seems to have gotten slightly better. People are being brought out of the hotel. But the Oberoi and the Trident are eerily quiet. Estimates have there must be about a hundred people inside the hotel, but there's been no movement in and out of the hotel.

INSKEEP: When you say people inside the hotel, we have reports of people who have been held hostage in the hotel as well as people who are simply trapped in their various rooms.


Ms. RAJAN: I think the Oberoi Group has not released any official numbers of how many residents they have inside these two hotels at the moment. So it's pretty much just a guess.

INSKEEP: And these are hotels that were big tourist attractions. Many foreigners would have been there.

Ms. RAJAN: Yes, because these are the five-star hotels in the area. The Taj Mahal Hotel Palace and Tower and the Oberoi and the Trident are the oldest hotels in South Bombay, and they are the sort of preferred sort of places to stay for a tourist. But it's also a very - I mean, even for locals, I mean, we go there for absolutely everything. Rarely a week goes by when you don't go there a couple of times. It was very much sort of part of life in South Bombay. It's hard to say how horrible this whole thing has been. I mean, it's a complete shock.

INSKEEP: Let me turn back to Smriti Mundhra, the filmmaker who's still on the line with us. I understand you knew someone who was inside one of the hotels at the time of the attacks.

Ms. MUNDHRA: Yeah, I was sort of canvassing my friends and family, and I realized that, you know, a lot of people I know have either been in the hotel or know people who may still be trapped in one of the two hotels. My cousin actually works in the Taj Hotel. Her office is in the hotel. And a lot of her colleagues both work and live in the hotel with their families. And a lot of them haven't been accounted for as yet.

INSKEEP: Smriti Mundhra is a filmmaker, and Sara Rajan is a journalist based in Mumbai. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.