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WITNESS: In the wreckage of Mumbai's Trident hotel
Sat Nov 29, 2008 10:42am EST
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Gregory Beitchman is the Consumer Editor, Asia and Emerging Markets, for Thomson Reuters. Based in Mumbai, he is a frequent visitor to the Trident-Oberoi Hotel, one of three sites besieged by Islamist gunmen who launched coordinated attacks on the city late on Wednesday. In the following story, he describes his impressions on returning to the hotel after the siege was lifted
By Gregory Beitchman
MUMBAI (Reuters) - Standing outside the jammed office door of Mumbai's battered Trident-Oberoi Hotel, the thought hits us at about the same time: what if it's blocked by a booby trap?
Simon Hartley, a Briton working in the construction industry, and I have come back to retrieve our belongings from the Trident, a home-away-from-home for us both, after elite troops ended a harrowing siege by Islamist militants.
A concierge has escorted us up to the 12th floor. The door to Simon's office looks as if it has been forced. The concierge and a guest services manager assure us the floor has been cleared, but we're not convinced. We want them to check again.
"I think it's a good idea," Simon agrees.
The guest manager calls downstairs. "Room 1208 has been opened and checked, please confirm," he asks. "National Security Guard officers have inspected every room," comes the reply.
"There were no terrorists on the 12th floor," offers the concierge. Satisfied, we stand back as locksmiths arrive.
Simon has been working and living in the Trident-Oberoi hotel for about six months.
"I had gone out with a friend and was coming back when I heard what happened. I was lucky ... a lot of people and staff I know have lost their lives," he says.
Well-armed gunmen struck at the heart of India's financial center late on Wednesday, laying siege to the Trident-Oberoi, the historic Taj Mahal Palace Hotel and a Jewish center.
The death toll stood at 195 after Indian commandos killed the last of the gunmen holed up inside the Taj on Saturday.
BROKEN GLASS, BULLET HOLES
Soon after the last shots were fired at the Taj, I was sitting back in the lobby of the Trident-Oberoi after receiving a call from the hotel to come and get our belongings.
About 12 hours earlier, hundreds of people had been trapped inside but now immaculately dressed staff are cleaning up broken glass. Bullet holes pepper the walls and the sea-facing windows have been blown out.
I passed through the same lobby on Wednesday on the way for a haircut, just two hours before the attacks began. Continued...
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