M A I N   N E W S

Shock, confusion in London
Trevor Datson

London, July 7
“I was on the bus. I looked round and the seats behind me were gone.’’

More than that, the middle-aged victim of the bus blast in central London could or would not say.

Shocked, disorientated, and with oil and pieces of debris in her hair and clothes, she asked for directions to Holborn but refused all offers of help.

The scene was repeated again and again across central London as at least six explosions rocked the capital on Thursday, killing several persons and wounding scores, in what police fear were attacks to coincide with leaders of the Group of Eight nations meeting in Scotland.

The scene around Russell Square in the city’s heart was one of bewilderment, with little reliable information available on what had actually happened.

Traffic wardens, police support officers and private security guards were all drafted in to man cordons.

Police spoke of ‘’a bomb’’ or ‘’bombs,’’ or of ‘’explosions’’. The slowly expanding police cordon pushed before it droves of confused office workers, evacuated from surrounding streets.

Cellphone networks were jammed with callers trying to reassure loved ones, and shops filled with people begging to use the phone. Some young women in a hairdressers’ shop were in tears.

Most of the attacks centred on the city’s underground rail system. Loyita Worley, 49, was travelling from Moorgate to Aldgate when her train was shaken by a large explosion.

“I saw an orange flickering on the side of the tunnel,’’ she said, adding 20 to 30 ‘’walking wounded’’ had been led from the damaged carriage, which had been torn from ‘’floor to ceiling.’’

“Many were shaking, there were a lot of head injuries, it was very bloody,’’ she said.

One man’s clothes had been blown off and he was totally black with soot, she said, but passengers remained calm even as objects fell down on to the roof of the carriage.

Another witness, a computer programmer at a London investment bank, was in the same train when he heard an explosion in the carriage in front of him.

‘’There was a loud bang and everybody collapsed to the floor because of smoke. But everybody was very calm and we waited for people to direct us,’’ he said.

Back at Russell Square, people talked of hearing explosions, but the lightly concealed panic as the police combed the area for bombs made any degree of clarity impossible.

Traffic stopped completely, with engines off, the police lines blocking escape routes for all but cycles and motorcycles.

Sirens howled in the eerie quiet. — Reuters

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