The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Frantic hunt for friends

Mumbai/Calcutta, Aug. 26: They are a frantic lot, running from hospital to hospital. They are looking for their friends, fearing many of them could be dead, in addition to the ones identified in the JJ Hospital mortuary.

“There were at least seven to eight Bengali gold workers killed here yesterday,” says Bishwaratan Datta, standing with fellow workers in front of a building on Dhanji Road in Zaveri Bazaar where the first bomb went off. “The number could be higher. We are so many of us living here. Many bodies cannot be identified — they are so disfigured.”

There are thousands of Bengali jewellery workers living here. “When the bomb went off, there were so many people killed in one instant. Some were reduced to body parts. My friend’s brother is missing, for example,” says Sahadev Ghosh, a gold worker whose nephew was injured in the blast.

“In our building alone there are 200 to 250 Bengalis,” says Datta. “Dhanji Road houses 10,000 Bengalis. In Zaveri Bazaar, there are around one-and-a-half lakh Bengali gold workers.”

Of the 32 persons declared dead by the hospital, four were identified as Bengalis — Indrajeet Ghosh, Madan Mandal, Tapan Das and Surojit Sasmal.

Bengal inspector general of police Chayan Mukherjee said the casualty list sent by Mumbai police had six names from the state, the others being Ananda Dey and Arabindo Majhi. Barring Ghosh, the residences of all the other men have been located.

On the injured list are Laltu Ghosh, Sanjay Pramanik, Amit De, Govind Pramanik, Srimant Bag and Vijay Chakraborty. The condition of most of them is stable. They are all gold workers.

The house that bore the brunt of the blast yesterday — Navnidhan Building — also housed a gold workshop. “But there were only 15 employees in my workshop,” said Prosanto Das, the owner. “Everyone escaped.”

“We have requested the hospital authorities to preserve the bodies we think could belong to our friends and acquaintances. We are trying to get in touch with the relatives of persons who we think are missing,” Datta says.

Many of them are dropping in at the hospitals to find out if there is anyone they know. “We live in Pydhonie (in Zaveri Bazaar) and we just wanted to check if any of our friends were hurt,” said a man who was visiting the four wards at JJ Hospital where the blast victims were being treated. “Thankfully, we didn’t see anyone we knew.”

Some have approached the Bengali Association in Zaveri Bazaar. “Our phone didn’t stop ringing yesterday,” says Jagannath Haldar, president of the association. “But we are trying to put together a list of the victims in various hospitals. We are also calling up relatives of suspected victims in West Bengal,” says Haldar.

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