ATLANTA – Indian-Americans and others in the United States with connections to Mumbai were frantically trying to get in touch with loved ones and colleagues Thursday as they followed coverage of the city's deadly terrorist attacks.
While the highly coordinated attack that killed at least 119 people played out Wednesday night, Americans sent worried phone calls and e-mails to scores of friends and family. Other Americans had close calls of their own.
"It's hard not knowing how all of your loved ones are, especially when you are seeing it on TV," said Angela Mulchandami, 25, of Atlanta, whose mother arrived on a flight from Mumbai on Thursday morning. "I didn't know if she had made the flight."
At least two American women were among those injured in the attacks on 10 sites. Andi Varagon of Nashville, Tenn., called her mother, Celeste Varagon, from a hospital Thursday and said she had been shot in the arm and leg while eating dinner at the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower hotel.
Another Tennessee woman traveling with her was also injured, but her name was not immediately available, Celeste Varagon told The Associated Press.
State Department spokesman Robert McInturff said Thursday at least three Americans were injured in the attacks, but said he could not identify them.
The motive for the violence was unclear, but Mumbai has frequently been targeted in terrorist attacks blamed on Islamic extremists, including a series of bombings in July 2007 that killed 187 people.
Karan Maheshwari, 25, arrived in Atlanta from Mumbai on Thursday morning. His mother called him before he took off to say that his high school biology teacher had been shot to death and two family friends were being held captive at the Taj Mahal hotel.
"They are just killing innocent people," said Maheshwari, who works for the McKinsey & Company consulting firm across the street from the Oberoi Hotel, which was also attacked. "They are just creating panic and terror and what does that accomplish?"
Indian-American and Hindu communities across the U.S. were closely watching news coverage and trying to understand the rash violence in India's financial capital.
"It makes you wonder: Does it have anything to do with the previous round of terrorist attacks?" said Parthiv Parekh, editor of Khabar, a magazine for Indian-Americans in Atlanta. "If people don't stop getting wrapped up in sentiment and emotions and tit-for-tat, it will never end."
Sumita Batra, 39, who owns a chain of Indian-influenced beauty salons in Southern California, said she has two close friends who are in Mumbai for the holiday season. For several hours Thursday, she couldn't reach one who was traveling with her 3-year-old son.
"I've tried to call her and I've sent texts. I'm going to wait until the next couple of hours go by and touch base with her family just to make sure everything's OK," she said, before her friend replied to say she was OK. "I can't really allow myself to get panicked."
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg joined worshippers at the Hindu Temple Society of North America in Queens for a prayer service to honor the dead and injured.
The Durga Temple, a large Hindu temple in northern Virginia, was open for prayers on Thanksgiving Day, though no special services were planned immediately after the attacks. Officials said they would likely have services as members return from holiday travel.
In Irving, Texas, Rajyam Rao went to the D/FW Hindu Temple Society "to say a little prayer," she said. Temple officials have scheduled a special prayer service Friday. She was born in Mumbai and used to work across from the Taj Mahal hotel.
"It is shocking, saddening," Rao said. "Right now the world economy is so bad, and you'd think that's where the people's focus would be. Instead it's the terrorist attacks, the bombings. This is really shocking."