Mumbai: Lanterns flying over Oberoi hotel spark panic

An emergency alert was issued after three flying, flaming objects were spotted over the Oberoi-Trident hotel and a helicopter was summoned to inspect the area

A family enjoying Saturday night at Marine Drive set off a few sky lanterns and, unwittingly, sparked a wild goose chase for Mumbai Police and the Navy and Coast Guard, who went on high alert after they saw unidentified flying, flaming objects over the Oberoi-Trident hotel.

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Of the three sky lanterns, two flew over the hotel and eventually extinguished, while one grazed the fourth floor, sparking concerns that the building could catch fire
Of the three sky lanterns, two flew over the hotel and eventually extinguished, while one grazed the fourth floor, sparking concerns that the building could catch fire

The city has been on constant high alert after repeated alerts from central agencies about a possible terrorist strike using manned or unmanned flying objects. Post 26/11 attacks, there have been several warnings that terrorists could enter the city on paragliders or send unmanned, remote-controlled balloons or other flying objects laden with explosives. As a result, in the past year, several flying objects have given Mumbai cops and security agencies sleepless nights, Saturday night included.

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Teams were dispatched to the spot within minutes of the sky lantern being spotted near the hotel around 10 pm. Later, it was learnt that the flammable lanterns had been released by a family at Marine Drive, which is a popular haunt for Mumbaikars, especially in the weekends. A team of police officials reached the spot and moved the gathering crowd away.

“A family was celebrating some occasion and brought the sky lanterns. One of the lanterns was released in the air towards the sea, but the air pushed it towards the city. The lantern went up in the air and towards the hotels. Two more lanterns were sent up by the family,” said a police officer.

The hotel staff also spotted the approaching lanterns and notified the Navy which, along with the Coast Guard, issued an emergency alert. “There was so much tension amongst the officials, even a helicopter was called to fly over the top of the hotel to inspect the situation,” said a cop, adding, “Two of the lanterns flew over the hotel and extinguished. However, one of the lanterns grazed the fourth floor.”

A tourist at the spot said, “The crowd was enjoying it, but when the lantern struck the hotel and still kept burning, we worried that the hotel could catch fire. It was dangerous.”

Cops from the local police station were present but did not take action as they understood they were just sky lanterns. The Marine Drive police have filed an entry about the episode in the station diary but no case was registered.

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