'The whole hotel shook,' says B.C. man who escaped Mumbai attacks
Kelowna couple seeks refuge in temple near targeted hotel
Broken glass and blood covered most of the Oberoi Hotel lobby in Mumbai, India, after gunmen stormed the building, triggered grenades and marched hostages to the roof, a Vancouver man who escaped the violence said.
Jonathan Ehrlich, who arrived at the Vancouver airport Thursday night, said he came close to becoming a hostage at the Oberoi Hotel, where he was staying on a business trip.
Two business friends invited him for a drink at the hotel bar, but he declined because he was tired and had an early flight to catch. His two friends ended up being taken by the gunmen.
"They [gunmen] shot a bunch of people, grabbed Alex and this gentleman … and started marching them up to the roof," said Ehrlich, whose friend Alex told him Thursday morning what happened.
Ehrlich said the attackers apparently seized guests' records from the hotel and then went room to room searching for Westerners.
Someone knocked on his room door at about 10:30 p.m., then rang the door bell, but Ehrlich did not open the door.
"Two minutes later, there was a massive explosion. The whole hotel shook, and I knew something was wrong," said Ehrlich, a father of four, who works in the internet technology industry and has a business in Mumbai.
"I ran out into the hallway … I heard the word bomb. Then adrenalin just kicked in overdrive. I went in, threw my stuff together and picked up my bags, ran down the stairs [and] went into the lobby area."
There were no staff or police in the lobby, only perplexed guests standing around, not knowing what to do, he said.
"It's not a good scene. There was glass everywhere, blood and stuff. I took a couple of steps in and realized it was not the way to go, so then I went back in [the lobby] and people were still standing around. I just said, 'We got to get out of here!' so I started running towards the exit."
Ehrlich ran out into the alleyway and heard police yelling "Run!"
"I started screaming 'airport, airport' and one of the guys from the hotel grabbed me and my bags and threw me in a cab and took me to the airport."
Ehrlich describes himself as "the luckiest guy on Earth" to have made his way home safely.
Meditation helps Kelowna couple deal with ordeal
Two Kelowna, B.C., residents —- Larry and Bernie Koftinoff —- sought refuge in a temple near the Oberoi Hotel, where they were at one point trapped in their room, their daughter Maya Koftinoff told CBC News on Thursday.
She talked to her parents Thursday morning.
"It was really reassuring when they called me. They are actually quite calm and relaxed so it made me feel really good. I am feeling relieved, like a lot has been lifted off my shoulders because I know they are OK and will be OK."
Koftinoff said two members of the meditation team her parents were part of were shot and are in a Mumbai hospital.
On Wednesday evening, the Koftinoffs decided not to go out for dinner and went to their hotel suite instead.
"They went up to their bedroom and they started hearing gunshots from a machine-gun and explosions and things like that," Maya Koftinoff said. "So they blockaded their door with the bureau and then they just started doing some meditation."
More than a day after gunmen staged a series of deadly attacks across Mumbai, Ottawa confirmed at least one Canadian was among the at least 119 people killed and two Canadians were among the more than 300 injured in the assaults. Six Canadians are missing in the wake of the attacks.
Dozen travel plans to Mumbai cancelled
Meanwhile, a Vancouver travel agency specializing in India tours said Thursday a dozen customers have cancelled their trips to Mumbai, and airlines such as Lufthansa and Air France have suspended their flights to the besieged city.
Dolly Bains, director of Bains Travel Ltd., said the last time agencies like hers felt such a "travel chill" was shortly after the 9/11attacks in the U.S.
"This time seems to be a little more concerned than the previous times because the bombings were in several areas, not just one area," Bains said.
However, Jonathan Ehrlich said the people of Mumbai need support from the rest of the world in terms of tourism.
"It's important that every one in your audience knows that you should get on the plane and go to Mumbai, spend money and put your arms around those people because if you let these terrorist bastards win, we are all at risk," said Ehrlich, who is looking forward to going back.
"I can't wait to go back as soon as my wife gives me a day pass or week pass."