Obama visit: Huge security drill, Coconuts removed at a Mumbai venue
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Last Updated: Wednesday, November 03, 2010, 20:03
Mumbai/New Delhi: Extraordinary steps like getting coconuts removed from trees at one venue were taken by authorities in Mumbai, as unprecedented security measures were put in place ahead of US President Barack Obama's visit starting Saturday.

An elaborate security drill involving US secret service agents, personnel from different Indian intelligence agencies and NSG commandos was planned for tomorrow in Mumbai which will be the first port of call for Obama.

Besides Mumbai Police, Indian Navy and Indian Air Force personnel, US Air Traffic Control personnel will also hone their skills.

A similar exercise will also be carried out in Delhi on Friday to fine tune security arrangements in the national capital during Obama's visit on the second leg of his India trip.

In Mumbai, authorities at Mani Bhavan did not want to take the risk of seeing coconuts fall on the head of the American president and asked the local civic body to cut down branches and coconuts from the trees around the museum. Mahatma Gandhi, whom Obama greatly admires, used to stay at the Bhavan during his visits to the city,

"We requested the ward officer to remove the branches as they kept falling and coconuts had become dry. We thought it would be better to get them removed," Mani Bhavan Executive Secretary, Meghshyam Ajgaonkar told PTI, apparently not wanting to take a chance when Obama comes calling.

Following the request, civic workers from the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) yesterday swung into action and removed them. Mani Bhavan is among the five places where Obama will be visiting during his stay in Mumbai. Taj and Trident Hotels, St Xavier's College and Holy Name School are the other places.

Obama is also likely to use a helicopter to travel between Mumbai's Chhatrapati Shivaji International airport and the city during his visit to the metropolis.

Sources said as the airport is located at a distance, security agencies would not like to take any chance and were advising the use of a chopper by Obama for travel between the airport and the city.

A helipad located in South Mumbai is also getting renovated and being sanitised for the use of the US President.

All high rise buildings in the vicinity of Mumbai's Taj Mahal hotel, Delhi's Maurya Sheraton hotel, where the US President stay, will be sanitised and security personnel will guard them from rooftop to prevent any air borne attack.

The Mumbai coastline will be guarded by Indian Navy personnel while IAF fighter jets and helicopters will hover in the skies over both the cities.

The ridge area -- opposite Delhi's Maurya Sheraton hotel --has been illuminated by floodlights as part of the heightened security drill, officials said.

The Home Ministry has already issued an alert for Mumbai and Delhi asking authorities to take extra precautions during Obama's visit as well on Diwali on Friday.

As part of its security measures, a team of Force One, the special terror counter unit formed on the lines of National Security GuardS(NSG), has inspected the venues that are on the itinerary of Obama in Mumbai.

A team of senior officials of the Force One has visited Taj Mahal, Trident, Taj President and Grand Hyatt hotels where the rooms were booked by the US officials for their stay, a senior police official told PTI.

The premises of St. Xavier's College, Mani Bhavan and Holy Name school and University of Mumbai, where the US President would visit, were also inspected by the team, the official added.

"The purpose of their inspection was to get a first-hand knowledge about the premises and its vicinity. The topographies of these places were studied. Details such as entry and exit points, buildings adjacent to the venues etc were among the various things that were noted and studied by the team," the official said.

The Force One would be part of the security apparatus that would maintain hawk's vigil visit. Police have also issued notices to boat operators asking them not to ferry vessels from the Gateway of India for three days beginning November 5.

All roads close to the iconic Taj Mahal Hotel, where Obama will be staying during his visit, will remain closed for public for two days.

The Mumbai Fire Department has also scrutinised the fire fighting systems at all the venueswhere the President is scheduled to visit.

"We have conducted checks at Hotels Taj and Trident, Mani Bhavan, St Xavier's College, Holy Name School," Deputy Chief Fire Officer (Colaba) S V Joshi, told PTI.

The schools and colleges have been asked to top up their empty fire fire extinguishers and keep more fire extinguishers on stand-by, he said.

"We will be deploying fire engines, ambulances on Saturday morning at each of these locations so that in case of any mishap we can immediately press into service," Joshi said adding also, as roads will be cordoned off and there will be less traffic, the response time will not be more than two minutes.

Last week, few officials from the US security team met senior fire officers for discussions on the equipments and mechanisms the fire department have in place.


First Published: Wednesday, November 03, 2010, 20:03

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