Train bombings wreak havoc at heart of Mumbai

By Justin Huggler

DELHI - Survivors of the Mumbai train bombings today spoke of watching helplessly as passengers hurled themselves from the still fast moving train in blind panic after the first explosion, only to dash their brains out on the track below, so great was the horror of what had happened on board.

When the first bomb went off at around 6.30pm local time (around 1am today NZT), the carriage would have been packed to bursting.

It was rush hour on the busiest urban rail network in the world, and the city was being lashed by monsoon rains. At busy times, people don't just squeeze into a Mumbai train. They hang out of the open train doors, clinging on with one hand. They would have been the first casualties, blown off the train by the force of the blast.

But it would have been much worse inside, where the passengers cram in so tight that you sometimes have to stand with one foot on top of the other.

Somewhere inside that crush a bomb went off, blowing its way through flesh and bone -- a bomb powerful enough to tear away the roof of the train like a tin can.

When the television cameras got to the site of the explosion, the train windows were covered in a fine spray of blood.

In the ten minutes that followed, five more bombs would go off in the midst of passengers standing helplessly on crowded trains, from downtown Mumbai to the furthest suburbs. A sixth went off in a passenger underpass at one of the busiest stations.

"We heard a loud blast in one of the train compartments. When we rushed there and looked, we saw people with severed limbs and grievous injuries," one witness told reporters. "There were no police or railway people to help."

Television pictures showed dead bodies lying by the side of the tracks in the rain, while survivors lay nearby, groping for their mobile phones.

Police emerged from the wreckage carrying gruesome bundles wrapped in bloodstained white rags that can only have been severed limbs and body parts.

A large group of people stood around one blood-soaked man while a boy slapped his face to try to bring him round. When he did not move, some one in the crowd shook his head and they gave up.

One young man, covered in his own blood, stood staring at the ground silently at the ground as the chaos and panic raged all around him. He didn't look up once, so deep was he in shock. And the monsoon rains hammered down over them, hampering the relief effort.

People rushed from all over Mumbai to help the injured.

"There were so many, I couldn't really count," Sunny Jain told the BBC. "There are not enough ambulances and many people are making their own way to the station. They are coming in taxis and by foot."

As so many times before in a crisis, in the bombings of 1993 and 2003, it was the ordinary citizens of Mumbai (formerly Bombay) who rushed to help. It was they who carried the wounded to ambulances, and who searched through the twisted wreckage of the trains.

But then this was an attack on the heart and soul of Mumbai. The trains are the lifeline of the city, carrying a staggering 6 million passengers a day.

So gridlocked is the traffic that the journey, which takes two hours by road, takes just 15 minutes by train, and everybody in the city, from the richest Bollywood producer to the poorest slum-dwellers, travels on the trains at some time.

- INDEPENDENT

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