Many were on their way home after work, while others were eating snacks in the narrow and bustling streets around Mumbai’s abandoned opera house when a blast rocked the area just before 7pm.
Fire brigade floodlights showed the full extent of the damage in a claustrophobic side street in the crowded working-class district and diamond-trading hub.
Sandals were abandoned among the muddy puddles and potholes overflowing with steady monsoon rain. Roadside food stalls were overturned in the gutter and the mangled remains of a car stood with its doors hanging off.
“More than 5,000 people pass through here every minute,” said Jayesh Labdhi, a committee member of the Mumbai Diamond Merchants’ Association, near the wreckage of a white car.
“At about 6:50 [pm] there was a huge big blast. We didn’t know what it was, but after a couple of minutes we saw so much smoke everywhere. There were so many people lying on the ground just crying out and wanting help,” he said.
Others who heard the blast and felt the nearby buildings shake shook their heads as they surveyed the site. Many of the victims had lost limbs, they said quietly.
“It’s a dastardly attack. Cowardly,” said Ravinder Singh, 48, who runs a spare parts shop nearby. “They’re innocent people, rich, poor ... It’s sad. The common man suffers the most in the end.”
A second explosion targeted Zaveri Bazaar, about 5km away — an area packed with precious-metals traders and jewelry sellers shuttling between shops with consignments amid cows, shoppers and curious tourists.
“There was a lot of damage. Buildings 30m away had their windows blown out,” fashion photographer Rutavi Metha said. “There were bodies lying on the ground and a lot of blood. Local people were trying to help, picking up the injured and putting them in cars to drive them to hospital.”
Gohira Oza, 30, who runs a drinks store in the district, said he ran from his shop after hearing the explosion.
“I helped pick up three dead bodies and three injured,” he said.
Mustafa Fatakadawala, owner of a stationery and tool shop, his white kurta shirt stained red with blood, did the same.
“I rescued about eight people before the ambulances arrived,” he said.
Police quickly cordoned off the scene and mobile phone networks were jammed as the injured were taken to hospital on makeshift stretchers made of tarpaulin sheets or bundled into taxis or private cars.
A third target was a bustling street in Dadar, a middle-class residential and commercial district surrounding the landmark Shivaji Park, where cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar learned his craft.
A low intensity blast went off near a bus stop close to a school.
Hordes of worried friends and relatives pushed to get in to the privately-run Saifee Hospital, where many of the Opera House victims were taken.
“I don’t know what has happened to my colleague, Jharilal Yadav,” said security guard Ashok, who only gave his first name.
“His entire body was covered in blood. I don’t know how he is. We found him in a pile of rubble. I only recognized him by his uniform,” he said.
Hem Narain Shukla said his brother Ram, a 48-year-old painter, was being treated at the hospital.
“His condition is not very good. He has suffered multiple head wounds. I don’t know what’s going to happen,” he said.
Nilish Shah was not so fortunate. He squatted, head in hands, by the hospital’s main entrance.
“I got a call saying that my brother Sandip was hurt. I came all the way down from Kandivali [in north Mumbai], but he had already expired,” he said.
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