A miracle nobody was killed
A HOME-MADE bomb that exploded on a London Tube train yesterday morning failed to detonate correctly. Dozens of people were injured but there were no fatalities.
Schoolchildren and commuters were squashed in like sardines, no one paid much attention to the white bucket in a plastic bag yesterday morning.
After mingling among the victims, the terrorist who dropped the makeshift device simply slipped off the rush-hour Tube train in west London – leaving the timebomb at their feet.
Had it worked as intended, a massive blast of fire would have killed dozens on the new, open-plan style train which – at 8.20am yesterday – was close to its capacity of nearly 1,000 people.
Miraculously, the main charge – apparently on a timer – failed to fully detonate.
But the partial explosion was still enough to create a giant fireball – and then pandemonium. In a dangerous stampede to escape, a pregnant woman and schoolchildren were among those crushed.
Gillian Wixley, 36, who lives in Putney, was eight seats from the explosion. She said: ‘It was chaotic: There was lots of people panicking and people were injured due to the crush.
‘Everyone was very emotional. There was one boy, maybe age ten, who was commuting to school on his own. He was sitting on the floor sobbing.
‘He was obviously in shock and very scared. Everyone around him was trying to calm him down and help him.’
The train is regularly packed full of schoolchildren. The Fulham area serves at least three state secondary schools: Fulham Boys School, The London Oratory and Lady Margaret Hall along with a number of independent schools.
Lady Margaret Hall schoolgirl Emanuella Mensah, 16, described the panic.
‘I was right outside the corner shop when people started running from the station. People were shouting, “run, run”. I saw old people, people with their kids. Then someone shouted “terrorist!” More people kept coming out of the station.’
Panic spread among passengers within seconds of the blast and they began tumbling out on to the narrow platform fearing that the whole train would blow up. Some were squashed against railings as everybody headed for the only way out, a set of steps by the front of the train down to street level.
Louis Hather, 21, a computer programmer, hurt his leg in the scramble to escape the train.
He said: ‘I was just on my normal commute in and the train was rammed. We were stuck in like sardines. I was facing away from the bomb when suddenly I heard screams; they were the kind of screams that tell you something serious had happened.
‘I immediately thought, “There’s been a terror attack.”
‘There was something about the urgency in the way people were trying to get away that made me think that. There was a big crush on the stairs, with a pile-up about halfway down. People were falling over each other and being stepped on. Somehow I managed to get out and into the street but my stuff was still inside.’
Ryan Barnett, 25, who was further up the train, recalled: ‘I was sitting there, headphones in, at Parsons Green, the doors open fine, I’m not really paying attention, and all of a sudden hundreds of people run past me screaming a mixture of “stampede”, “attack”, “terrorist”, “explosion”, “get off the train”, “everyone run”.’
He made it to the staircase but stewards were shouting ‘stop, stop, stop’ and it turned into a pile-up of bodies.
Mr Barnett said: ‘People were falling over, people were fainting, people were crying. There were little kids clinging on to the back of me.’ In the chaos, he said a pregnant woman lost her shoes and fell over.
‘There was sheer pandemonium and panic,’ added passenger Neil White, while another witness told LBC radio: ‘I was helping a lady up and she was unconscious – she was just getting trampled.’
Amid the chaos a young boy was left crying out for his brother. The youngster, said to be no more than 11, was seen searching for his sibling as panicked commuters rushed from the west London station.
Olaniyi Shokunbi, 24, a fitness instructor, said: ‘There were people on the floor, there was a little boy, I really felt sorry for him, he couldn’t have been more than 11. He had scratches on his head, shouting that he had lost his little brother. He was in his school uniform. It was crazy.’
He added: ‘There was a woman on the floor. She couldn’t breathe. People were screaming and crying. I could see little kids lying on the floor. They were trying to get out of the station but were overpowered by adults in the stampede. They weren’t physically strong enough.
‘There was a woman on the floor who was breathing but not moving, in serious pain.’
At first not everyone was alarmed. In a video clip of the scene one woman calmly remarks: ‘Oh look, that bag’s on fire,’ as she passed the remnants of the bomb.
A member of staff told her: ‘Right guys, let’s get away, let’s move right down to the end of the platform.’
Adding to the panic were false reports of a knifeman on the loose. As commuters reached the barriers at the bottom of the steps, some people were ordering them to go back up.
Luke Walmsley, a 33-year-old video editor, said: ‘It was complete pandemonium, complete terror. They didn’t open the gates and the Underground staff did not understand what was going on. People were shouting, “He’s got a knife! He’s got a knife!’’ I didn’t see anyone with a knife.’
He added: ‘In the immediate seconds there were people running and shouting, it was just like where do you run to? People were rushing down the platform, everyone was doing a 100metre sprint. There were lots of injuries from people being trampled on.’
‘Kids were overcome by adults in the stampede’
Accountant Sarah Hickson, 31, who was on her way to work from Putney to Paddington, said: ‘I heard everyone screaming “Run, run, run!” and the whole Tube went into frantic panic. Everyone was sprinting for the exit and someone was screaming, “There’s a man, there’s a man!” One person tried to climb over the railings and over everyone else. It was total chaos.
‘There was a pregnant woman and a little boy of about ten. His face must have been crushed against the concrete stairs because when he stood up he had grazes all over his face. It was horrible.’
She added: ‘Transport for London staff were doing their best to get control but everyone was screaming, trying to get out.
‘Eventually they managed to get some calm and people moved ever so slightly back, allowing the boy and pregnant woman to get up.
‘I am physically OK but shaken up, it was a scary experience.’
Insurance broker Grace Watts, 27, from Fulham, said: ‘Everyone was being shoved and squashed then someone at the bottom started shouting at us to get back up. It wasn’t a member of staff, but in the panic everyone assumed that there was an attack going on outside the station.’
Commuters on the train behind witnessed terrified passengers sprinting away up the tracks. Nicole Linnell, 29, who works for a fashion label, said: ‘We saw people running down the tracks. About 30 or 40 people.
‘Running on the tracks is the last thing you want to do, so we were like, “What’s going on?” After about an hour we were evacuated off the train on to the tracks, about ten to 15 people at a time.’
Sylvain Pennec, a software developer from Southfields, near Wimbledon, who was a few yards from the explosion, said commuters struggled to escape the carriage ‘collapsing and pushing’ each other. BBC correspondent Riz Lateef, who was at the station travelling to work, said there was ‘panic as people rushed from the train’, adding: ‘People were left with cuts and grazes from trying to flee the scene. There was panic.’
Another witness, Sham, said he saw a man with blood all over his face. ‘There were loads of people crying and shaking,’ he told BBC Radio 5 Live.
‘There were a lot of people limping and covered in blood. One guy I saw, his face was covered in blood – I’ve never seen anything like it.’
The first police to arrive on the scene quickly picked up on the knifeman reports and rumours of a second device. Commuter Aaron Butterfield said police had told him there had been an explosion and ‘someone was running around with a knife’, adding: ‘We have just been told there’s another explosive device.’
Mark Arnell, 35, said officers rushed into his cycle shop and ordered them to flee. A police officer said: ‘We believe there is a second bomb, people need to stay back, there is a man with knives on the loose.’ As the emergency services flooded the area, commuters were marooned on trains further along the line. Some ran down the tracks until a more orderly evacuation was arranged.