Alive

And no, the lyrics of the Pearl Jam song will not be part of this post.

If there’s one thing that I didn’t think I’d ever do when I took to blogging, it’s live-blogging during a bombing/hostage situation.

Today was the premiere of the movie “The President is Coming“. While we were drinking free white wine, courtesy Sula, gunmen armed with grenades and automatic weapons stormed into the Taj (presumably the one in Apollo Bunder) and the Trident in Nariman Point. They were boys of about 20-25 year-olds and apparently they demanded that people with American and British passports to identify themselves. It’s now 12.56 am. The news channels are saying now that the terrorists are dead. Two have been shot at Girgaum Chowpatty. Seven places in South Mumbai have seen explosions and people being taken hostage. In Nepean Sea Road and Colaba, gunfire staccatoed through a reasonably quiet Thursday night. There have been explosions in CST, outside Leopold Cafe, near the Cama Hospital, in Walkeshwar, near the domestic airport and at Vile Parle. Cama Hospital and GT hospital have been taken hostage. There was gunfire around Metro cinema (Fort) and Ramada hotel (Juhu).There are rumours that 80 people are dead. A friend has a picture of one of the grenade-throwers. He’s only about 20 years old.

I can’t believe this is my city. I can’t believe I just passed the JW Marriott hotel ten minutes ago and didn’t realise that the little crowd near the gates would end up being a gunfire battle. I can’t believe the Taj hotel is burning. They’ve got hostages in there. More than half are American and British hostages. It’s 1.21am. There’s been a new explosion at the Taj. A friend of mine is in there. His wine glass had a bullet go through it. He said he was being evacuated to the 18th floor except that’s where they apparently took hostages. We can’t get through to his phone. A friend’s sister escaped just as the shooting began. Some of the terrorists have escaped in a police van. Charming.

All this is, however, entirely fitting as fireworks for the premiere of a film centred around the legend that is George Bush.

UPDATE: Gun battles are “ongoing” and there are about 250 injured.

The Oberoi hotel is still under fire. There are 40 hostages in that hotel alone. At Girgaum Chowpatty, helpless looking policemen stand pressed against their jeeps.

Casualties include Vijay Saluskar, one of Mumbai police’s star encounter specialists. I say RIP, though I doubt he will under the circumstances. Hemant Karkare, head of Mumbai’s Anti-Terror Squad (ATS), has also succumbed to his injuries. He was one of two officers who injured during the shooting at Metro cinema. Two other fine police officers have been killed. No one has taken responsibility for these events so far.

The fire continues to rage at Taj Mahal Palace and Tower. There are no fire engines there. No one is nearby. All the lights have been taken out. It’s the fifth floor that is burning. Bloody bodies are coming out of the Taj hotel in the large cage-like trollies that generally carry suitcases.

In the Oberoi, there is a hostage situation developing. No one knows how many people have been taken. Staff are being evacuated steadily and slowly.

Two sets of terrorists have reportedly been killed.

At last count, 12 locations in Mumbai have seen terrorist attack tonight. Two boats, loaded with explosives, were confiscated from the Gateway of India. The encounters continue. It is now 2.11am.

About 40 people have been taken hostage in the Oberoi. The Army have apparently entered the hotel, along with bomb disposal squads. The Army are all around the hotel and naval commandoes are inside.

2.28am – Firing reported in Borivali.

2.33am – NDTV just showed us where policemen are standing, armed with rifles, around the Taj hotel. Because really, what good is a news channel if it can’t inform everyone, including terrorists, watching cable tv where the police are positioning themselves?

So far, no further news of Cama or GT hospital.

2.39am – The Deccan Mujahideen has taken responsibility for the attacks. They sent an email to news organisations.

2.42am – Most of the Taj hostages have been released but the encounter is still “going on”. Those in the new wing have come out but things remain violent in the old wing.

3.30am – A number of terrorists are believed to be holed up in the Taj, whose old wing is engulfed in flames.

3.41am – Arnab Goswami of Times Now decides this is a safe moment to compare this to 9/11. He also asks whether India will take this lying down. So much for responsible journalism; I’m almost relieved they’ve forgotten about Cama Hospital. Reports are coming in of about 100 people having been evacuated from the Taj and of the stairwell of the hotel being encrusted with dead bodies.

3.51am – Two terrorists have been killed in Taj. “Two more to go,” said Srinivasan Jain, quoting the police. There’s apparently an encounter taking place outside Bootleggers, a pub in Colaba.

4.14am – The terrorists are still in Trident, along with at least one dead person and many injured. Very little evacuation has happened. Still no news of Cama or GT Hospitals. Reports say 40 hostages.