Saturday, November 29, 2008

Survived Japanese recall Mumbai terror attack

Businessman Kei Kuriwaki talks to reporters at Narita Airport after returning from Mumbai on Friday morning.

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Some of the Japanese who witnessed the Mumbai terrorist attacks returned to Narita Airport on Friday with tales of horror, confusion and brushes with death.

A 39-year-old company employee who was on a business trip and stayed at the Taj Mahal Palace hotel said: "I could have been in the hotel [when it was attacked]. I was lucky to get out."

While eating dinner at an Italian restaurant near the hotel at about 10 p.m. Wednesday, the company employee heard what sounded like fireworks exploding, he said.

When he returned to the hotel a few minutes later, he noticed that no bellboys came out of the lobby.

"[I heard people yelling] 'Watch out! Don't go into the hotel,'" he said. "I stood outside the hotel with other guests who told me it was a terrorist attack and bombs had been placed inside the hotel."

Afterward, he was picked up by a colleague who was living in Mumbai.

The man was taken to another hotel about 20 minutes from the Taj Mahal Palace, he said. He canceled his work for the following day and took an evening flight to Japan. He left his suitcase, which contained work documents and materials, in his room at the Taj Mahal Palace.

"I didn't have any prior information [about the risk of terrorism]. I just can't believe this could happen in an economic center," he said.

Kei Kuriwaki, a food manufacturing company employee of Suginami Ward, Tokyo, said he stayed at a hotel about 200 meters from the Trident hotel, where Islamic terrorists took many hostages.

Kuriwaki, 50, said he also heard dozens of gunshots and explosions during the day Thursday.

He also said he saw a man who appeared to be a hostage seeking help in a window on an upper floor of the Trident hotel.

On Thursday, Kuriwaki could not leave his hotel, so he contacted his family in Japan with cell phone e-mails.

"I was worried about whether I could get back to Japan up until right before I left [India]. I was staying at a hotel for foreigners--I could have been attacked," Kuriwaki said.

For others, however, the ordeal is far from over as they remain stuck in the city.

Emiko Sato, 37, a tour conductor staying at a Mumbai hotel 500 meters from the Taj Mahal Palace hotel, had a sleepless night Thursday because of noise from the attacks that killed more than 120 people.

After dawn broke, however, the city center became eerily silent, she said.

When Sato left her hotel at about 7 a.m. Friday, the streets were blocked off by police and military forces, but she could see a fire burning inside the Taj Mahal Palace and smoke emanating from the building.

"I can't get any information about Japanese, and I haven't received even a phone call from the Foreign Ministry to confirm my safety," Sato said. "I have to stay [in this hotel] because all of the terrorists haven't been arrested."


Body to be returned to Japan

Meanwhile, the body of Hisashi Tsuda, a 38-year-old Mitsui Marubeni Liquefied Gas Co. employee who was killed in one of hotel attacks, will be flown to Narita Airport on Saturday morning.

Representatives from Mitsui Marubeni informed Tsuda's parents of his death Thursday night at their home in Maniwa, Okayama Prefecture. They also told them that Tsuda's body would arrive at the airport at about 8:30 a.m. Saturday.

Tsuda's younger brother and his mother left Tokyo for India on Friday morning.


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