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By Raymond Thibodeaux
Mumbai
29 November 2008

Many people in Mumbai are assessing the extent of the carnage after days of fighting between armed assailants and Indian security forces. Raymond Thibodeaux has this report from Mumbai.

Indian police officers run to a new position around the landmark Taj Mahal hotel in Mumbai, India, 29 Nov 2008
Indian police officers run to a new position around the landmark Taj Mahal hotel in Mumbai, India, 29 Nov 2008
This was the scene in front of the Taj Mahal Palace & Tower Hotel the final standoff in a citywide siege that had stretched into a fourth day.

Firefighters have moved in to put out the last of the flames that erupted as Indian commandos battled at least three heavily armed assailants amid a hailstorm of bullets and grenade blasts.

Hundreds of bystanders watched the firefighters from a police cordon, many of them appeared to be stunned by the extent of the damage to the Taj hotel, a more than 103-year-old symbol of Indian pride and one of the world's most prestigious hotels.

Many of those bystanders worked at the Taj as drivers, kitchen staff, and maintenance workers. To them, the charred, bullet-riddled hotel is a sign of hard times to come.

Hanuman Singh is a 42-year-old driver from the Taj. "I am very, very sad because we don't have any jobs after this," he said. "Everybody liked the Taj and I also was very happy. Now, I am very sad."

It is unclear when the Taj hotel will reopen.

Nearby, the Trident Oberoi hotel is closed. So far, at least 30 bodies have been recovered from the hotel.

Suresh Solomon, 48, has been a taxi driver for 12 years. He says his agency depends on foreign tourists for much of its revenue.

"For common people it is already a very big problem," said Solomon. "The climate has changed economically. Poor people are living very hard today. The roadside shopping and the government have been closed. What can the people do? In another two or three months, there will be big questions."

Solomon, who comes from the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, says that if the Taj and the Oberoi hotels do not open within the next few months, he will most likely face serious financial difficulty. He might have to go back to his hometown.

The financial fallout of the attacks remains to be seen, but it is clear that two of the country's most expensive and luxurious hotels are out of commission. India's tourism industry employs about 42 million people, many of them in Mumbai, seen as the financial and entertainment gateway to India.

Solomon and Singh both said they are hoping that Mumbai lives up to its reputation for resilience and quickly bounces back from this tragedy.

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