Three bomb blasts in Mumbai, 18 dead, over 130 injured

Mumbai:  Three bomb blasts within  twelve minutes during Mumbai's rush hour have left at least 18 people dead and over 130 injured. Home Minister P Chidambaram, who reached Mumbai late at night, described the blast as "a coordinated terror attack". Mr Chidambaram inspected all the three blast sites. (Read: Chidambaram on Mumbai blasts)

Mumbai has been sealed and is on high-alert; so are Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata and Bangalore. (Read: High alert in cities across India)

The first blast took place at 6.56 pm in Zaveri Bazaar in South Mumbai, a crowded market named for the many small jewelry stores that fill its narrow streets. A minute later, there was an explosion at Opera House, also in South Mumbai; the final strike was at 7.06 pm near Kabutarkhana at Dadar West in Central Mumbai. The Home Minister said Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) were used in all three blasts. (Watch: YouTube videos on Mumbai blasts)

Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan who described the blasts as "an attack on the heart of India" said the blast at Opera House was the most powerful. (Watch: This is an attack on the heart of India, says Maharashtra CM)

This is Mumbai's first terror attack after 26/11 in 2008 - when 166 people were killed in 72 hours by ten young men who sailed into the city from Karachi and attacked some of Mumbai's most famous landmarks. The city wore a steely clam this evening. The Mumbai Police sent an SMS to all cellphone users in the city minutes after the blast, asking them to stay indoors. In 2008, the police had been criticised for failing to share basic information with the city. (Read: Police's SMS after Mumbai blasts)

The Home Minister said that the National Security Guard (NSG), which has a hub in Mumbai, was on standby. The National Investigation Agency or NIA has reached the site of the blasts and is working with the Mumbai Police to collect and analyse forensic evidence. A seven-member team from the Central Forensic Science Laboratory (CFSL) from Delhi is also in Mumbai. Sources have told NDTV that preliminary inspections by the forensic teams and bomb disposal squads have hinted at the use of ammonium nitrate in the IEDs. Traces of ammonium nitrate have been found at the blast sites, sources added.

Heavy rain was pouring down over South Mumbai on Wednesday evening triggering fears that crucial evidence may be washed away. (Read: Concerns about evidence as rain lashes South Mumbai)

Police sources say close circuit TV (CCTV) footage from security cameras opposite the bus stop at Dadar and at Opera House could provide them with leads in the post-blast investigations.

The blasts were designed to disrupt the city when it is at its busiest. The Zaveri Bazaar blast took place in an umbrella kept at the crowded Kahu Gali, a street of eateries where many commuters stop to snack before catching their local trains home. The Dadar West explosion took place in a meter box on an electric pole near a bus stop. The Opera House blast took place at Prasad Chamber building.

"I heard a loud explosion. And then I saw people with serious injuries lying in pools of blood," said an eyewitness to the Dadar explosion.Datatray Jadhav from Zaveri Bazaar said, "A girl and another man were seriously injured. We put them both in a police van and sent them to the hospital." (Watch: Eyewitness accounts of the blast in Zaveri Bazaar)

Zaveri Bazaar has been hit before - over 50 people were killed in twin blasts in 2002.

The injured are being treated at KEM (022-24136051), Nair (022-23085379), Harkishandas (022-23855555/30095555), Saifee (022-67570111).

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