Some parts of the Taj Mahal Palace & Tower, which suffered extensive damage in the terrorist attacks, may need to remain shut for a year and the restoration may cost up to Rs 500 crore (RS 5 billion), experts said.
Terrorists, holed up in the heritage wing (also known as the Old Taj) for over 50 hours, blasted grenades and killed hostages, causing extensive damage to the interiors of the property. The heritage hotel is about 106 years old. The sixth floor, which housed the super luxury suits, has been gutted and the fourth floor has also suffered severe damage. Some restaurants have been burnt down completely.
"The rate for restoration work of a heritage site is about Rs. 5,000 per square feet (for the Taj it will be higher). We expect a shutdown of at least one year," said Indian Institute of Architecture vice-president Pandurang Potnis.
"The Taj heritage wing contained extraordinary pieces of mostly hand made art. The woodwork dates to colonial era and will be very difficult to replace." Experts also pointed out that structural engineering will be the most challenging part in the restoration.
However, the Tata-promoted Indian Hotels Company, which owns the hotel, has not yet assessed the damage. In a statement, managing director and chief executive Raymond Bickson said: "The process of fully assessing the internal situation cannot yet begin as the National Security Guard is continuing its risk assessment. We will provide updates on the situation within the hotel when we can."
However, the company's management said it will restore the iconic hotel to its past glory. "We are not just determined but completely committed to rebuilding the institution to its fullest glory," said Indian Hotels Company vice-chairman RK Krishna Kumar.
The cost of restoration and loss of business is expected to hurt the profits of Indian Hotels Company as well as East India Hotels, which runs the Oberoi and Trident hotel chains, for the remaining part of the fiscal year. The Mumbai Trident was also under siege by terrorists.
East India Hotels chairman PRS Oberoi said at a news conference in Mumbai that it was early to assess the damage and how much the reconstruction of the hotel will cost and when it will reopen. The Mumbai Oberoi, he said, appeared to have been damaged more than the Trident.