Mumbai, Nov.29 : Guests who were regular visitors to Mumbai's upscale Taj Mahal Palace hotel have praised the staff of the hotel for saving the lives of hundreds of wealthy guests as heavily armed gunmen roamed the building, firing indiscriminately, leaving a trail of corpses behind them.
Some sacrificed their own lives in the process, The Times quoted witnesses, as saying.
Prashant Mangeshikar, a guest, said that a hotel worker, identified only as Rajan, had put himself between one of the gunmen and Mr. Mangeshikar, his wife and two daughters.
"The man in front of my wife shielded us. He was a maintenance section staff member. He took the bullets," Mangeshikar said.
" For the next 12 hours, before Mr. Rajan was finally taken out of the hotel, guests battled to stop the bleeding from a gaping bullet wound in his abdomen. It is not known if he lived," he added. The Taj Mahal had been renowned for its sublime service for decades. Few of the hotel's wealthy patrons would have predicted, however, that the men and women who delivered their meals and carried their bags - people earning a fraction of the sums of those they served - would display such courage and composure as the death toll quickly rose around them.
Dalbir Bains, a British businesswoman, was with friends beside the hotel pool when the first crackle of automatic gunfire was heard a short distance away.
"We heard shots and saw a man who'd just been shot. The terrorists were just behind us as we ran," she said.
She made her way upstairs to Sea Lounge, a cafe on the first floor of the hotel, where the guests were still unaware of the fast-approaching threat.
"Within seconds the staff had locked the doors, turned off the lights and told everybody to get on the floor," she said.
"They were fantastic. They saved lives," she said.
The guests also described the ferociousness of the gunmen.
"They were the kind of people with no remorse - anybody and whomsoever came in front of them they fired at," said a senior Marcos officer, clad in black, his face masked to protect his identity.
Parizaad Khan, 26, who sheltered there, said: "They (waiters) handed out blankets, drinks. Despite the chaos all around they didn't stop working for a second. They were amazingly calm."