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Tuesday, Aug 26, 2003

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Heart-wrenching scenes at the hospital

Archana Chaudhary

Mumbai , Aug. 25

A PUNGENT smell of charred flesh and clotting blood permeated the air at J.J. Hospital. For about an hour, this afternoon, it seemed the stream of dead being rolled into the lobby in one of Mumbai's largest municipal hospitals would never stop.

Injured men, shock writ all over their faces, were brought in from the bomb blast site at Pydhonie, one of Mumbai's most bustling merchant areas.

At the outpatient department, a woman in a flaring orange kurta kept pressing the knuckles of her right hand with her left palm, as she tried to suppress tears. No one would let her see if her brother lay among the charred remains of the 25 dead. Beside her, grown men grieved spotting their loved ones in the burnt heap.

The Police Sub-Inspector, Suresh Kadam, and Havaldar Nandakishore Pednekar moved from ward to ward making a list of the injured asking them their names and addresses. Most couldn't hear the questions; like all blast victims, their hearing had been temporarily affected. Some couldn't speak or move because of shock.

Amidst the cacophony of the crowded hospital, 25-year old Shantaram Bhau Gawande, kept repeating his name to no one in particular as he held up his blood-soaked right hand with the left.

On another bed, 24-year old Shankar Sharma, a daily-wage worker who was out for a lunch-break at the time of the blast, stared at the ceiling as tears flowed down his cheeks. ``Mere chhote bacche hain, Illahabad mein. Aaj meri biwi bewa ho jaati (I have small children who live in Allahabad. My wife would have become a widow today),'' he told anyone who cared to listen.

Anxious relatives whispered rumours of more blasts. Some spoke in hushed tones about Islamic terrorists targeting Mumbai before its biggest public festival, Ganesh Chaturthi. Some voices thought Mumbai was paying the price of atrocities committed in Gujarat. But no one, including the police, would say anything aloud.

By evening, PSI Kadam had a list of more than 40 dead and 142 injured in three municipal hospitals near the blast sites.

But even amidst the chaos of blood and gore, there were citizens who dropped everything to ensure that the dead and injured reached hospitals. Before anyone could ask, volunteers had lined up to donate blood.

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Stories in this Section
Bomb blasts shatter Mumbai; 43 dead

Markets tremble, Sensex down 120 points
Blast rocks commodities markets
Heart-wrenching scenes at the hospital
Festival sales unlikely to be hit, feel retailers
CAS off in Delhi, on in other metros
`Terror cover would have aided them'

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