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Terror strikes Mumbai, over 147 killed

BLACK TUESDAY: A first class bogie of a suburban train that was reduced to a mangled heap after a blast at Jogeshwari in Mumbai on Tuesday. Photo: PTI

BLACK TUESDAY: A first class bogie of a suburban train that was reduced to a mangled heap after a blast at Jogeshwari in Mumbai on Tuesday. Photo: PTI  

Mumbai Bureau

Local trains targeted; explosions in first class compartments; 439 injured; commuters forced to walk

MUMBAI: Seven serial blasts ripped through Mumbai's suburban railway network at peak hour on Tuesday evening leaving at least 147 dead and 439 injured. As casualty figures rose by the hour, railway authorities and the police struggled to piece together the full picture of the terror strike that had hit the country's commercial capital.

>Photo Gallery: Mumbai Suburban Train Blasts

The blasts began shortly after 6.20 p.m. when a First Class compartment in a Western Railway suburban train running from Churchgate to Borivali exploded between Khar and Santa Cruz stations. In the next 15 minutes, blasts were reported from near Matunga Road station, Mahim, Bandra, Borivali, Jogeshwari and Mira Road. All these stations are on the Western Railway line. Train services were immediately suspended on it, although the Central Railway continued to function normally through the evening.

The dead and the injured were taken to hospitals in the vicinity, including KEM Hospital, Bhagwati Hospital and V. N. Desai Hospital. The Mumbai police confirmed at 11 p.m. that they knew of 139 dead and 254 injured. (According to a PTI report, after an emergency meeting of the Cabinet, Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh put the death toll at 147 and the number of wounded at 439).

Confusion and fear

However, as darkness descended on a confused and frightened city and the skies also opened up on a typical monsoon day, it was virtually impossible for either the police or the State Government to confirm the exact number of dead and injured.

To add to the misery of the people, all roads leading to the suburbs were jammed with people trying to make their way home. With a red alert having been declared, riot police were out on the streets. Thousands of people were forced to walk as there was no other transport available. Those who had transport, or got taxis, willingly shared these with stranded people. Eye witnesses recounted that the only help they got initially was from fellow passengers and people in nearby localities.

All mobile networks were jammed for hours after the first news of the blasts came through, adding to the levels of panic and anxiety that already prevailed in the city.

Ravindra Dalvi, a guard at Mahim station told The Hindu that he heard a loud explosion at 6.23 p.m. as the train heading towards Borivali stopped at Platform 3. The explosion in the First Class compartment in the middle section of the train was so powerful, he said, that the paving stones on the platform were displaced. Usha Nair got into the 5.57 p.m. Virar fast train with her friends at Churchgate . She says that as the train moved towards Matunga after the Dadar stop she heard a sound resembling the pelting of stones on a train. She was in a Ladies Second Class compartment in the middle of the train. The next thing she saw was smoke billowing out of the train. In panic, she and her friends pulled the chain and many of them tried to jump off the moving train. The train came to an abrupt halt shortly thereafter and when they got down on the tracks between Matunga and Mahim stations, they saw that the First Class compartment had been completely blown up.

Western Railway authorities said that of the seven blasts, three took place in First Class compartments, normally located in the middle. Police said the nature of the explosive could not be immediately confirmed.

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