Page last updated at 10:28 GMT, Friday, 28 November 2008

'There were bodies outside our room'

By Sarah Bell
BBC News, Heathrow Airport

Oberoi Trident hotel in Mumbai on Thursday 27 November
The siege at the Oberoi-Trident lasted 36 hours

A British businesswoman has told how she barricaded herself into her room before being rescued by Indian commandos from the siege at the Oberoi-Trident hotel in Mumbai.

She was greeted by her husband and sons at Heathrow after arriving flying back into the UK from India.

The woman spoke to the BBC News website while wearing borrowed oversized men's clothes and shoes.

All of her possessions had been left behind.

She had been packing ready to depart on Thursday morning and had wandered to a colleague's room in her slippers when the shooting broke out.

The woman, who did not want to be named, said: "I was in the lift when I just heard a lot of shooting and I didn't know why.

"The first thing I thought was it was a random gunman downstairs, far away from where I was. I didn't know it was terrorists. I went into the room and it didn't stop. But it looked normal outside."

She said she was concerned but calm throughout her ordeal, and at first just wanted to know what was happening.

They watched TV news and constantly spoke to friends and colleagues in Mumbai and London in an attempt to find out.

"When we switched the TV on they were talking about the problems in Thailand," she said.

"Then it flashed there was shooting in Mumbai, in the area where I was staying, and it was between two gangs."

Furniture barricade

After about an hour the room was full of black smoke and they had to smash the window for air.

The commandos came and tried to get into the room but we didn't know it was them at that point and we didn't know what to do

She admitted she was frightened.

"We didn't know whether the fire was going to come in or if the gunmen were going to come in," she said.

They doused the curtains in water and put them across the bottom of the door then sat on the window ledges.

"We'd broken two holes in the glass, so we had a ledge each and sat with our bodies half in and half out, trying to work out what to do," she explained.

People on the ground were gesticulating at them, but she could not discern whether they were telling them to get out or get back to the window.

Father and son rescued from Oberoi Trident on Friday 28 November
A father and his son were rescued from the Oberoi on Friday

"This was before we barricaded the door. We used curtains, a chair, the sofa, which was the biggest thing we could put across there," she said.

A number flashed on television screen which she thought was an information line.

She called it and found herself speaking on a local TV station.

"They started asking me questions, but I wasn't interested in telling them what I was doing, I was interested in finding out what was happening," she said.

Her husband said he had a clearer idea of what was going on from watching TV in the UK.

Three bodies

The shooting and blasts continued all night, although there were periods when it went quiet.

Her son heard one grenade blast when he was talking to her on the phone.

A friend, who was in contact with the police, was able to tell the commandos where they were.

"The commandos came and tried to get into the room but we didn't know it was them at that point and we didn't know what to do," she said.

They phoned a number which they had been told was hotel security.

The commandos told us we had to be silent as they didn't know where the terrorists were, but it was safer to get us out

"They said if they were wearing black, let them in. But we didn't know what colour the terrorists were wearing. It was bizarre. We spent about 10 minutes deciding," she said.

"We decided before they blew the wall down to let them in, because it was going to happen, they were going to get in either way."

When they left the room they realised terrorists had been on their floor during the night. There were three bodies outside their room with gunshot wounds.

Hostages had been held in a room at the opposite end of the corridor - the commandos stormed it before she was evacuated.

Silent evacuation

A group of 18 people were taken out of the hotel down a back fire exit. They were told to use the light of their mobile phones to help them see the way.

"The commandos told us we had to be silent as they didn't know where the terrorists were, but it was safer to get us out," she said.

She said the relief did not start to set in until she was on her way back to London.

"I was uncomfortable until I got onto the plane," she said.

The woman has been in Mumbai for business many times and she usually stays at the Taj Palace hotel, which was also targeted.

Thankful for her escape from the Oberoi, she added she believes she came across two of the terrorists in the hotel lobby before the siege started.

"It was empty of normal people," she said.

"I'm thankful they gave us extra checkout time, otherwise we would have been spending our time in the lobby.

"A couple of people I know in Mumbai know people who have died."

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