WASHINGTON — As heavily armed militants rampaged through Mumbai, bloggers, citizen journalists and users of Twitter, the short-messaging service, provided riveting, if sometimes erroneous, accounts of the bloodshed in India's largest city.
Arun Shanbhag, a 46-year-old American of Indian origin who lives in Boston, where he teaches at Harvard Medical School, was visiting his parents in Mumbai when the militants stormed luxury hotels and other city landmarks.
Shanbhag wrote on this blog that he slept through the attacks on Wednesday night, but he has since provided a gripping and emotional eye-witness view of the events around the Taj Mahal Hotel.
He has maintained a running blog on his website at arunshanbhag.com, and supplemented it with messages on Twitter at twitter.com/arunshanbhag and his own pictures uploaded to photo-sharing site Flickr at flickr.com/photos/shanbhag.
Shanbhag's first message on micro-blogging service Twitter was Thursday morning: "Mumbai Blasts: Taj Hotel is a block from my house! Hostages still inside; still burning; smoke is pouring from windows; pics later."
That was followed by "Front of our building is staging area for Fire Engines" and "Parents are trying to keep me inside the house."
Shanbhag did eventually manage to leave, posting pictures on Flickr of the Taj Hotel in flames and the carnage left outside the Leopold restaurant.
"NOW I am MAD! Seeing the Dome of the Taj light up like a bon-fire! I AM MAD! MAD! MAD!" Shanbhag wrote in one Twitter message.
"NOW I am overwhelmed! Finally tears, in torrents! I am very, very sad!," he added in another.
While Shangbhag provided a sober and personal account of the events, some of the thousands of messages being exchanged every few seconds by some of the six million users of Twitter reflected the chaos and uncertainty of the situation.
Like in the game of telephone, a seven-member South African security squad which helped rescue 120 guests from the Taj Hotel was transformed by some Twitter users into a 120-member team of elite South African commandos.
Twitter users swapped messages at a breakneck pace as the events unfolded, whether it was seeking information on family or friends or links to the latest breaking news reports.
There were even unconfirmed reports that the Indian authorities had tried to stop people posting to Twitter because of fears the information could be used by the militants still holding hostages.
The Internet played a role in a variety of other ways, from Google Maps pinpointing the locations of the attacks to bloggers posting lists of the hundreds of dead and injured.
"Blood Donors are needed at the Government Hospitals that are treating the hundreds of injured," a blogger named arZan wrote on mumbai.metblogs.com, adding the telephone numbers for three hospitals.
Dozens of videos of the attacks were posted on YouTube although the vast majority appeared to be recordings of television reports rather than actual videos from the scene by eye-witnesses.