On 26 November 2008, Daniela Federici had just arrived at the Taj hotel in Mumbai when she thought she heard the sound of fireworks.
The photographer and documentary maker, from Melbourne, Australia, thought it was strange but carried on checking in to her room.
Nobody in the packed reception of the luxury five-star hotel, including Daniela, knew that 10 gunman from the Pakistani terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba had been rampaging through the bustling Indian city armed with automatic rifles and grenades.
Their aim was to kill as many people as possible, and four of them had now entered the Taj.
“People were falling to the floor, people were screaming. I ran upstairs to the bar where my production crew were waiting,” says Daniela, who was in the city to make a documentary. “We put furniture up against the doors and could hear gunmen killing people outside.”
Daniela and her production crew later made a desperate journey through the hotel’s vast network of corridors and rooms before barricading themselves in a ballroom.
More than 26 hours after gunman had entered the hotel, Daniela and her crew were hiding out in the same room as fire began to wrap its way around the building.
“We all hugged each other and laid down to die. We were holding hands in a circle when the terrorists threw a grenade from a roof to hit something below and two of the windows smashed.”
Those in the ballroom took down the long curtains before tying them together and using them to escape. Rescue workers outside then brought a ladder over, allowing Daniela and the remaining hostages to make their way down to the street below.
On 29 November 2008, the four-day siege was brought to an end after India’s National Security Guard conducted Operation Black Tornado to flush out the terrorists.
Daniela suffered panic attacks in the years that followed as she learned to come to terms with what she had witnessed. In Mumbai, tightened security measures at hotels and key sites are a constant reminder of the attack that left more than 160 people dead.
You can listen to Daniela’s story in the latest episode of StoryCast ’21, a Sky News podcast telling 21 personal stories from some of the biggest news events of the century.
Subscribe to Storycast 21 now on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Spreaker
StoryCast ’21 is telling 21 personal stories from some of the biggest news events of the century.
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