Dec 3, 2008

India - Mumbai attacks;Cama staff rose to occassion

Rahi Gaikwad

Mumbai: The sixth floor of the Cama and Albless Hospital building, down the road from the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST), is pockmarked. Bullet and shrapnel marks are all over the walls, on the two metal lift doors and the ceiling as well. They bear testimony to the heavy exchange of fire that took place on the night of November 26. On the floor outside the lift are four small craters, presumably caused by grenades.

After unleashing mayhem at the CST, terrorists Mohammad Ajmal Amir Iman and Mohammad Ismail reached the hospital through the rear gate beyond 10 p.m, taking the overbridge at the station. First, they shot dead security guard Baban Ugde and moving into the main six-storey building fired at another guard, Bhanu Narkar. “I saw Bhanu move towards the building. I saw him being shot and falling down. Then, I did not venture out. I saw two people go up the building warning that terrorists were on their way,” said resident medical officer Santosh Patil.

Responding swiftly, “the staff gathered the patients and locked themselves in the wards and rooms. They switched off the lights,” said Dr. Patil.

Meanwhile, Kailash Ghegadamal, in charge of guarding two gates at the RMO and doctors’ quarters, was taking steps to block the entrance. He said: “I heard the firing at CST. People from the station were coming to Cama. They were talking about the terrorists. So, I first locked the RMO gate and went to the doctors’ quarters to warn them about the situation. Fifteen-30 minutes passed. When I came down, I saw the police. I guessed that the terrorists might have gone up the building. I took around seven or eight police officers and one more hospital staffer. All of us took the lift to the sixth floor, beyond which is the terrace.”

As the police did not know their way around, they asked Ghegadamal to guide them. A bucket with a steel counter was lying around, he said. “One of the policemen picked up the steel piece and threw it up the terrace. The next moment, Chandrakant Tike, a worker at the hospital came rushing down. He had been held by the terrorists. They had searched his person and seized his mobile phone. He told us that there were two terrorists on the terrace.”

An exchange of fire ensued between the police and the attackersfor 30-45 minutes. Ghegadamal and Tike moved into a gap in the wall. When the terrorists hurled a grenade, both of them jumped to save themselves, but Tike was injured in the attack. He is now undergoing treatment in the hospital.

A relative said Tike did not wish to speak to the media. “He is out of danger, but still in a traumatised state.”

Of the three other policemen who were injured in the grenade attack, two died and the other is still in hospital, according to Ghegadamal, who was also hurt.

After the grenade attacks, the police told Ghegadamal and others to go down while they provided cover. After Ghegadamal got aid for others and himself, he felt that the noise was dying down. He does not know what happened after that.

He has no idea how the terrorists came down and exited the hospital.

The two attackers reportedly came down and were intercepted by Additional Commissioner of Police Sadanand Date. He was injured in the attack.

Meanwhile, ATS chief Hemant Karkare, ACP Ashok Khamte and encounter specialist Vijay Salaskar were going towards Cama in a police Qualis jeep.

The terrorists fired at their vehicle, killing them on the spot. One more policeman was killed inside the jeep and another policeman Arun Jadhav was injured. He remained in the vehicle, lying still.

The attackers removed the bodies, took the Qualis to the Vidhan Bhavan, where one of the tyres sprang a puncture. So, they hijacked a Skoda and went to Girgaum Chowpatty. In an encounter with the police at Chowpatty, Iman was arrested and Ismail was killed.

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