August 26, 2003, Chandigarh, India
Mumbai, August 25
The bombs, made from high-grade explosives, were hidden in the boots of taxis parked at the Gateway of India and the crowded Zaveri Bazar, a few kilometres from each other.
The bombs were wrapped in nails and iron filings to cause maximum damage, according to the police. This resulted in the bodies of several victims being torn apart by the impact of the explosions, the police said.
Eyewitnesses spoke of body parts of victims of the blasts being scattered all over the place.
Both blasts, between 1 and 1.30 in the afternoon, were aimed at inflicting maximum casualties on the lunch-hour crowd that comes out for a break.
The blasts were so powerful that buildings in the vicinity of both areas suffered damages. While the Gateway of India located near the southernmost tip of Mumbai suffered no damage, glass panes at the Taj Mahal Hotel nearby were shattered and scores of expensive cars parked outside were mangled beyond repair.
Speaking to reporters at the site of the blasts, Maharashtra Chief Minister Sushilkumar Shinde warned that the blasts were aimed at provoking communal riots in Mumbai. “This is an attack on the country’s economy and we must maintain peace at all costs,” Mr Shinde said.
Coincidentally, the blasts happened while Mr Shinde and senior police officials were reviewing the security situation for the 10-day Ganpati festival from Sunday.
Panic-stricken Mumbaiites fearing a reprise of the March 12, 1993 serial bombings telephoned offices of newspapers and television stations even as rumours spread of several bombs going off across the city.
Telephone and mobile networks were stretched to capacity as people frantically tried to reach their near and dear ones as the news of the blasts trickled in.
The bomb blast sites witnessed heart-rending scenes as police and fire brigade personnel collected handbags, wallets, jewellery and other belongings of the victims for safe-keeping.
Mumbai’s famed civil society was in action within hours of the blasts as volunteers organised blood donation drives in different parts of the city. Cable television networks were broadcasting appeals for blood and volunteers were queueing up at civic and government hospitals in different parts of the city.
Meanwhile, confusion prevailed at the JJ, GT and St George hospitals with relatives seeking information of their loved ones.
The lobby of J. J. Hospital in South Mumbai has been converted into a makeshift morgue. Victims from both the blasts were rushed to this hospital.
Witnesses said 20 bodies were laid out on the bare floor of the makeshift morgue. Most of the bodies were charred and the victims’ clothes torn due to the impact of the explosion.
Mumbai has a history of bomb blasts. On March 12, 1993, as many as 13 bombs went off in different parts of the city, including the one at Zaveri Bazar. More than 250 persons were killed then.
There have been six blasts in the city prior to today’s serial bombings since December. All explosions took place in train or bus stations.
The opposition Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party combine has called for the dismissal of the Shinde government in Maharashtra. BJP leader Gopinath Munde said from Aurangabad district, 700 km from here, that the state government had failed to maintain law and order and must go.
UNI adds: The Maharashtra Government tonight announced a compensation of Rs 2 lakh each to the next of kin of those killed in the twin blasts in the city. The injured will get Rs 50,000 each as compensation, official sources said here.
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