Nov 28, 2008

India - "I've never seen so much blood"

Sugandhi Ravindranathan

BANGALORE: Stuvart Corera, general manager of the Hyderabad office of a Japanese multinational giant, bade his dinner guests goodbye on Wednesday night. Nothing unusual about that, except that the venue was the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, Mumbai

Mr. Corera’s guests, three Japanese, left for the airport to go to Singapore, while he returned to his room on the 14th floor of the hotel to what he assumed would be a good night’s sleep. He had a plane to catch in the morning.

Around 1.30 a.m., he got a call from a frantic colleague asking him if he was all right. That was when he realised he was in the middle of a terror strike. He spent a fitful night before waking up early on Thursday and getting ready to catch the 9.30 flight to Hyderabad. There was a complete blackout. No light, no TV and the elevators were not working. He barricaded himself in his room, communicating through SMS with colleagues.

Tense hours passed, punctuated by the staccato sounds of firing. He waited, without food, and endured the agony of not being able to tell his wife and two daughters back in Tuticorin that he was in the middle of the worst terror attack the country had seen. “I didn’t want them to worry. You know how it is.”

Finally, around 5.30 in the evening, there was a knock at the door and a voice said it was the commandos. “There were some 30 or 35 of them. They rescued three foreigners from my floor and took us all to the 15th floor where seven more were rescued. We all went to the 16th floor and 20 of us finally followed them down the staircase. We saw the mayhem on the second floor. I’ve never seen so much blood in my life.”

It was only then that he told his family what he had been through. The group was taken in an ambulance to the police station near Victoria Terminus for questioning.

“Only God saved us,” he told The Hindu as he waited at the airport to buy a ticket to Hyderabad.

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