Indian eyewitness of Jakarta blasts, recalls ‘commandos, gunfire’

  • Debasish Panigrahi, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Jan 14, 2016 17:07 IST
Indonesian police commandos secure the area outside a damaged Starbucks coffee shop after a series of explosions hit central Jakarta. (AFP Photo)

A group of five Indians staying at an upscale hotel in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta are safe after a powerful blast ripped through a café just outside the premises.

Manoj Samantray, a geologist from Mumbai on a business trip to Indonesia and staying at the Sari Pan Pacific hotel, told HT over the phone about his experience and police operation in the aftermath of the explosion which was part of a series of blasts that rocked the city, killing at least seven people.

“I was in the lobby of the hotel. I was checking out as I had to take a flight to Mumbai at 2.30 pm. It was around 11 am (Indonesian time, 9 am Indian time). Suddenly I heard a loud blast. For a moment I did not realise what had happened. The glass shields of the hotel reverberated to the shock of the blast,” Samantray told HT over the phone.

Within seconds, it became clear the blasts had occurred inside a Starbucks café on the ground floor of a shopping plaza, adjacent to the exit gate of the hotel.

“Smoke was coming out of the café and a few persons were thrown out onto the road,” Samantray said.

He said the staff immediately asked the other guests to leave their rooms -- as it was suspected one of the terrorists could have sneaked into the hotel -- and ushered them into a hall.

“Through the windows of the fourth floor hall, I saw commandos taking position outside the hotel, while sound of intermittent gunfire could be heard from a distance,” he said.

Police commandos have now sealed the hotel and are now conducting room-to-room quarantine with the help of sniffer dogs and bomb disposal squads. Most of the guests at the hotel were from the Pacific region and a few from the West, he added.

Authorities have barred anyone from exiting the country and will be intimating tourists about the opening of the airport. “The hotel authorities are treating the guests well and are truly concerned about their safety and wellbeing,” he said.

The hotel is located in a business district, barely half an hour drive from the airport.

The blasts hit several locations including a shopping centre near the presidential palace and UN offices. Hundreds of police personnel, including snipers, are on the streets exchanging fire with suspected attackers.

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