A Bustling Diamond Market Wears Deserted Look

Mumbai, Jul 14 (IANS): A diamond market, possibly India's largest that attracts thousands of customers everyday in its lanes and bylanes and transacts daily business worth millions of rupees, Thursday wore a deserted look after it was rocked by a bomb explosion Wednesday evening.

With the market closed till Monday, shopowners rue their huge losses.

"I was standing at the corner of my office when I heard a loud blast. First I thought that it would be cylinder blast but when I went to see what has happened I saw people in blood coming out. Initially local people came to help and the injured with transported to hospitals with whatever mode of transport available," Hardik Hundia, a diamond merchant who has his office there, told IANS.

"A crowd of more than 5000 people come in these small lanes to buy and sell diamonds. A lot of people were there at the time of the blast. Many diamonds were broken and many were lost when the blast happened," he added.

The market, that is opposite the landmark Opera House, will remain closed till Monday as the main road near the blast site has been blocked and Hundia says they would suffer losses running into crores due to this.

"With each day of business closed we lose around Rs 250 crore (Rs 2.5 billion) of money. Even diamond markets in Ahmedabad, Surat and Kolkata are closed (in sympathy)," said Hundia.

A waiter at Opera House Cafe nearby said tension was writ large on the faces of the people a day after the explosions that killed 11 people here out of the 17 killed in the city in the the triple explosions.

"There was a lot of hustle-bustle here yesterday but today very few people have come to this place. Although some are here, but you can clearly see the tensions on their faces," said the waiter.

A guard from the nearby Liberty Hotel also revealed the horror of the blast site.

"When the blast occured no one first realised what had happened. But when I went further I saw people running out in blood, there were body parts lying here and there. Before the ambulance came some people had brought in blankets to cover the severed the body parts," the guard, Ram Niwas, said.

A lot of shopowners are said to be blaming Bharat Shah, president of Diamond Merchants Association, for getting the police post removed from the place.

"There was a small police post at this place. But it has now been replaced by a fast food outlet. There is now no security left here," said Hundia.

The diamond merchants now plan to meet Maharashtra Home Minister R.R. Patil on how to strengthen security in the two square kilometre area that sees a working population of nearly 200,000 people daily.


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