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Delhi bombings cause a scare in Britain

The Delhi blasts resonated in a London that is just about recovering from the deadly July 7 explosions on the underground.

india Updated: Oct 30, 2005 13:21 IST

The serial blasts in Delhi sent shock waves across the Indian community in Britain and among the many Britons who have fond memories of the sights, sounds and smells of Paharganj, one of the affected areas.

Britain was among the first to condemn the three Saturday blasts, with Foreign Secretary Jack Straw saying: "I utterly condemn the appalling attacks which appear to have been targeted at heavily populated areas to produce maximum carnage.

"This is yet another example of terrorists' cynical and callous disregard for human life. On behalf of the British government, I would like to offer the people of India my support and deepest sympathy," he said.

The blasts led to much concern and anger among the Indian community, more so because they occurred during festival time, when people were shopping in large numbers.

Many people of Indian origin in London are from New Delhi, including students studying in various British universities.

Frantic calls were made to parents, friends and relatives living in the Indian capital, in particular those living in the areas of the blast sites - Paharganj, Sarojini Nagar and Govindpuri.

Indians, particularly those with links with Delhi, who had gathered over the weekend to begin Diwali festivities, spent more time glued to the television for news about the blasts.

Paharganj is a favourite place for British tourists travelling to India on low budgets. The British government was making efforts to help out British nationals affected by the blasts.

Bradley Spencer from Manchester was in Paharganj when the blast occurred. He told the BBC: "I and my girlfriend were 50 meters away. Carnage and chaos prevailed as people ran in all directions, screaming and in a state of shock.

"We took cover in a nearby shop. Shopkeepers and market traders quickly closed their shops with the market traders using their carts as makeshift stretchers. It must have taken the emergency services 10 minutes to arrive on the scene.

"We were very lucky indeed as 30 seconds later we would have been next to the explosion."

In some ways, the New Delhi blasts resonated in a London that is just about recovering from the deadly July 7 explosions on the underground.

Many Londoners expressed solidarity with their Indian neighbours and discussed the dastardly attack at a time of festivities.

Said Steven Bake, a local resident: "I have just spent a week staying in a Pahargangj a hotel located just seconds away from the blast. As well as being a busy market area, it is equally popular with travellers and backpackers.

"Seeing the footage on BBC World and other news channels here brings back echoes of the July bombings in London.

"It is particularly tragic that this has happened just days before Diwali, when the main bazaar was alive with people shopping, coloured lights and Diwali lanterns."

Amy McDonald from Plymouth said: "I travelled to India at Easter and spent two days in Delhi. I can't believe that this has happened. I spent a day shopping and eating in Paharganj.

"It was a lovely area and is full of amazing sights and smells. It is going to have a lasting impact on many families and people as they work hard for their living."

Howard Frrar from Newbury, Berkshire, told the BBC: "This was such a shock when I saw this on the news a short while ago!

"I was in Paharganj for five nights just over a week ago, and then went on to start travelling to various places in India. But my plans changed and I had to return home, so I was back in Paharganj again just two nights ago, before my flight back to the UK."

Milind, an Indian student studying in Lodnon, said: "I feel angry and sad at the same time. These people were shopping for Diwali and because of few warped individuals or group, they are all dead forcing their dear ones for a miserable time ahead."

Added Jatinder Sidhu, a British Indian from London: "I've stayed at a number of hotels in Paharganj. It's a very interesting area where New Delhi meets Old Delhi... I really feel for these people, precariously earning a living in this chaotic, desperately mismanaged city."

First Published: Oct 30, 2005 11:31 IST