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'We rescued 300 people'

December 1, 2008
The firemen at the Taj were part of a team of 200 drawn from different fire stations across the city. As the fire spread on the top floor of the hotel, they launched a rescue operation to save the guests standing at the windows.

"We were told by the commandos not to go in without their go ahead. They instructed us to take cover behind the fire engine if there was firing from inside," says Manjrekar.

Terrified guests, who lined the windows, screamed for help on seeing them. "The commandos had warned us that it was risky to even pitch our ladders but we took the risk and rescued 300 people, most of them within an hour," says A V Sawant, Mumbai's Chief Fire Officer.

People were desperate to get out, and the firemen tried to ensure that help was at hand. "'We're here to save you, don't panic is what we kept telling them'," says Manjrekar. But that did not prevent one man from jumping out, fortunately he escaped without any major injuries.

The firemen had no bullet-proof vests, their weapons were ladders, hoses and the blue uniform with which they braved the onslaught of those hours of terror.

Video: Sanjay Manjrekar, the officer-in-charge of the the Byculla fire station, central Mumbai, who was part of the team of firemen at the Taj, spoke to rediff.com on 29th November.

Also see: Mumbai seethes over 'politics of martyrdom'
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