The blasts that broke Bombay: The sweetmeat seller told journalist Rahul Singh a bomb had gone off only a couple of miles away. That was just the beginning . . . two hours later, 300 lay dead and the city was in ruins

THE FIRST indication I had that something terrible had happened in Bombay was when my sweetmeat seller turned up in a highly agitated state at 2pm on Friday afternoon. 'Sahib, a bomb has just exploded near Flora Fountain,' he said. 'I saw a lot of people running in panic with blood on their clothes.'

Flora Fountain, just a couple of miles from where I live, is in the heart of Bombay's business district. I immediately phoned the Indian Express, the newspaper I onced edited. 'There's been a big explosion at Bombay Stock Exchange,' the news editor said.

The Stock Exchange, where more than two-thirds of India's shares are traded, is a brand new 28-storey building. Pashupati Advani, a stockbroker, has an office across the street.

'I first thought it was an earthquake,' he told me. 'The whole building shook and everything fell off my table. I have lived in San Francisco and experienced an earthquake there. But when I rushed out on to the street, I realised it was a bomb. There were mangled bodies, shattered glass, blood and smoke everywhere, and people with blood- stained clothes were wandering around in a daze. I have never seen anything so horrible before, and I thought to myself, 'Bombay is turning into another Beirut'. '

Little more than an hour after the first blast, I heard the clap of another explosion, loud enough to make the pigeons that live in my building scatter into the air. I tried to ring the Express again. No luck. The lines were all busy.

I eventually got hold of the Times of India. 'A second bomb has just exploded at the Air India building,' a reporter told me. 'Many people have been killed.' The Air India building, another huge skyscraper, is in Nariman Point, also an important hub of business and commercial activity. Next to it is the Indian Express building, and across the road the five-star Oberoi Hotel. The legislative assembly and the main state administrative building are less than 100 metres away. Several state ministers have their homes in the area.

'I was in the boardroom on the fourth floor when we heard the explosion,' said Himmat Sandhu, the manager of the Oberoi. 'Smoke was coming out of the Air India building and people were rushing from it and from the Indian Express building.'

At about the same time, two other bombs went off in rapid succession. The first was at the Sena Bhavan, the headquarters of the militant right-wing Hindu party, the Shiv Sena, which was behind the communal riots that engulfed Bombay in December and January. The second exploded close to the passport office in the northern part of the city.

Arun Sadhu, a writer who was on a bus in the area, heard the Sena Bhavan bomb and thought it was a car accident. 'Then the bus stopped at the traffic lights just before the passport office. At that moment, a huge explosion took place right in front of us. The bus shook, as if an earthquake was taking place, and a shower of metal splinters fell on it. A taxi a few paces away was completely smashed. Five or six other buses were completely demolished . . .'

Later I visited the scenes of the early blasts. The ground floor of the Air India building and the nearby Bank of Oman had been gutted, with a huge crater where the bomb exploded. The twisted wrecks of burnt-out cars littered the street. Among the rubble a torn banner, erected by peace campaigners during the communal rioting, fluttered in the breeze. It read: 'Bombay ko bachana hai' ('We must save Bombay').

At the Stock Exchange, where at least 50 people died and hundreds were injured, blood-soaked clothes lay among share certificates and files. Stalls lay broken in the road outside. 'Many of those who died were poor hawkers,' said Mr Advani.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
Life and Style
food + drink
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
a clockwork orange, stanley kubrick
filmSony could have made a cult classic
Life and Style
fashionThe essential guide to all the designer Christmas sale dates
news... you won't believe how bad their skills were

Arts and Entertainment
Mark Wright and Mark Wright
tvStrictly goes head-to-head with Apprentice
footballPremier League preview: All the talking points ahead of this weekend's clashes
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas