Ambulance sirens screamed and smoke billowed into the leaden skies as Jordan's security forces, including crack SWAT teams, struggled to cordon off the luxury hotel near Amman's busy Third Circle traffic hub from cars, reporters and curious onlookers stirred by an explosion minutes before that killed dozens of people.
Thousands of small shards of broken glass crunched underfoot as emergency workers moved in and out of the hotel to rescue the injured and retrieve the dead.
Shocked by the blast, survivors staggered out of the Grand Hyatt hotel. Many had been enjoying a leisurely dinner just minutes before; now they were dazed that they had survived the bombing.
An American man blurted out in a thick Southern drawl: "My friends are dead."
A soaked white-bed sheet, wet perhaps from the hotel's fire extinguishing system, wrapped his clothed frame like mummy cloths.
"The people who carried out this attack are cowards," he said. Refusing to give his name, the man said that he had lived in the hotel for the past two years like many other Western contractors doing business in neighbouring Iraq.
Just down the street, at the Radisson SAS Hotel, the situation was more frantic. Smashed windows, a collapsed ceiling, bloodied floors and white wedding decorations marked a party turned tragic.
The blast, like at the Hyatt, was carried out by a suicide bomber strapped with explosives. At this hotel, he made his way into a Jordanian wedding party before detonating himself.
The groom, Ashraf al-Akhras, suffered serious injuries and was rushed to an Amman hospital. The bride, Nadia Alami, escaped injury. But the newlyweds both lost their fathers.
"I lost my father and my father-in-law and there were many dead," al-Akhras told state television from his hospital bed. "This is a horrible crime."
Women and children including months old babies were among those seriously injured.
Shortly after the attacks, government officials and royal family members toured the bombed sites.
Deputy Prime Minister Marwan Muasher was quick to lay blame on Abu-Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian born leader of al-Qaida in Iraq. "Al-Zarqawi is a prime suspect," he told reporters.
The Hyatt was a favourite for American contractors shuttling to and from Baghdad and it hosted numerous conferences aimed at drumming up reconstruction projects and funds for Iraq, and bringing Jordan big business with it.
"We honestly don't know what happened, that's why the police took control of the whole building," said the hotel's general manager, Otto Steinbeck, trying to appear composed but obviously overwhelmed.
The hotel had hosted an IT conference earlier in the day, which was attended by international business people. Another meeting, an international medical conference, was planned for Thursday.
Hotel bellboys, some bloodied by the blast, ran alongside trolleys normally used to cart guests' luggage to transport the wounded outside.
It was a chaotic scene until police managed to get people out of the hotel to secure the bomb site. More than 20 ambulances funnelled through the crowds to reach the hotel's entrance, where they picked up dead and wounded.
Eyewitness Mohammed Hadeed said he saw a man with his eyeball gouged out and blood covering his face and body. A hotel employee said he saw a decapitated body lying in the lobby area.
Outside the Grand Hyatt, an impromptu rally of 100 Jordanians shouted: "We're proud Jordanians! We're not afraid of terrorism, or al-Zarqawi, Bin laden or al-Qaida!" a reference to al-Qaida's Saudi leader Osama bin Laden.Kilometres away at Days Inn Hotel, the target of a suicide car bombing, a headless body lay at the entrance, said eyewitness Khalil Qamouq. He said he saw three wounded Asians, most likely Chinese.
Three hours after the co-ordinated attacks, which struck simultaneously, police fanned out the capital, cordoning off the streets. Road blocks were set up to check cars and passengers identities. Security was also beefed up around diplomatic missions, hotels and government offices which had been the target of several al-Qaida's foiled terror plots in Jordan.
The kingdom's land borders were also closed briefly and the government declared Thursday a national day of mourning.
Source: China Daily