National News

Indian-Americans track down loved ones in Mumbai

Posted November 27, 2008 2:52 p.m. EST
Updated November 28, 2008 10:31 a.m. EST

— As they celebrated Thanksgiving in the Triangle, Indian-Americans had one eye on the television and one ear to the phone.

A day earlier, Mumbai was the scene of a highly coordinated terrorist attack that had killed at least 119 people at 10 sites, including several luxury hotels. Although the attack seems to have targeted westerners, locals are still worried about family members in Mumbai.

Neetu Rajpal tried to stick to a normal routine. Her parents and other family live in Mumbai, due north from the Taj Mahal hotel and the main train station targeted by gunmen on Wednesday.

"There were blood stains all over the floor. That was shocking because that's a place we are so familiar with," she said. "We walked through that place I don't know how many times."

In an area that was described as under siege and chaotic, Rajpal's family is OK.

"I'm very thankful, but it is sad," she said.

Just three weeks ago, her husband Deepak visited the area. "I did pass through the Taj and some of the places that are destroyed," he said.

"The death and destruction is unbelievable. It's just hard to believe that someone would do something like that."

The family marked Thanksgiving in Cary with prayers for loved ones half a world away. Members Cary's Indian community were expected to pray for the victims of the attacks during their regular gathering Thursday night at the SV Temple.

Indian-American and Hindu communities across the country tried to find solace in prayer. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg joined worshipers at the Hindu Temple Society of North America in Queens for a service to honor the dead and injured.

The Durga Temple, a large Hindu temple in northern Virginia, was open for prayers on Thanksgiving Day, though no special services were planned until members return from holiday travel.

State Department spokesman Robert McInturff said Thursday at least three Americans were injured in the attacks, but said he could not identify them.

One American woman, Andi Varagon of Nashville, Tenn., called her mother, Celeste Varagon, from a hospital Thursday and said she had been shot in the arm and leg while eating dinner at the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower hotel.

The motive for the violence was unclear, but Mumbai has frequently been targeted in terrorist attacks blamed on Islamic extremists, including a series of bombings in July 2007 that killed 187 people.