Troops on the street after Tube bomb attack
Commuters injured as fireball engulfs carriage and prompts desperate stampede from station
THE Prime Minister ordered troops on to the streets last night after a suspected Islamist placed a powerful time-bomb on a packed rush-hour train heading towards Westminster.
Theresa May took the decision after the independent Joint Terrorism Assessment Centre recommended raising the terror threat to its highest level, Critical, meaning another attack is believed to be imminent. The Army will deploy troops at key locations not accessible to the public around the capital to free up police. Last night officers and MI5 were involved in a huge manhunt for the bomber and any possible accomplices. It is not known if he had other devices ready to deploy.
Isil claimed responsibility for the attack, which left more than 20 people injured when an improvised bomb went off on a packed District line train at Parsons Green in south-west London.
The main device, which was packed with shrapnel and fitted with a crude timer, failed to detonate, meaning potentially hundreds of lives were spared. Police think the bomb may have accidentally detonated prematurely, with Westminster station the intended target.
After the attack, Donald Trump, the US president, seemed to accuse the police of errors, tweeting: “These are sick and demented people who were in the sights of Scotland Yard.” Counter-terrorism sources denied they had been aware of the suspect.
COMMUTERS on the packed 8.20am District line Tube were lucky. As the train pulled into Parsons Green station in south-west London, a plastic bucket that had been placed by a set of doors exploded before their eyes.
It sent a ball of flame into the air and sparked a stampede; passengers, among them children and at least one pregnant woman, were trampled in the race to escape. Twenty-nine people would be injured in the blast and the chaos that ensued, the youngest aged just 10. Eighteen of them suffered burns as their carriage was engulfed in flames.
It could have been so much worse. The improvised explosive device contained in the bucket did not properly go off. Instead it sent a fireball into the air that singed and scorched commuters in the immediate vicinity of the rear carriage of the train.
Peter Crowley, a sales consultant, posted a picture on his Twitter feed showing his charred scalp, his hair burnt to the roots.
“I heard a large bang from the doors on the other side of the Tube train and this fireball came towards my head and singed off all my hair,” said Mr Crowley, 37, from Sutton in south London. “It was a really hot, intense fireball above my head. I’ve just got red marks and burns to the top of my head. There were a lot of people a lot worse than me.”
He saw one man burnt across the side of his face while the whole of the back of his puffa jacket was set alight.
A caller to LBC radio station said he was speaking from hospital where he was being treated for burns. “It’s my head, and it’s my hair. Just hurts.”
“It’s crazy,” he added. “There was a flame in my face. There were just people with hair on fire… hands on fire.”
Luke Warmsley, 33, who was on the train, said: “It was like a large match had gone off at the end of the carriage. There was a plume of smoke that went off. I looked down the carriage and just saw more and more people running towards me.”
Lauren Hubbard, 24, who was in the end carriage of the train with her boyfriend, heard a loud bang and saw a “fireball” racing in her direction.
“It was hot and just came towards you, this flaming orange coming towards you. It smelt like burning,” she recalled, “We ran and hid behind cement boxes on the tracks and were the last people to get off the platform.”
She knew straight away what was happening. “My first thought was: ‘this is a terrorist attack, I’m going to die’.”
The explosion sparked an inevitable panic. The train had just pulled into the platform and passengers had got on at Parsons Green, heading eastbound to Victoria and Westminster. The doors had shut again when the device went
‘It was hot and just came towards you, this flaming orange coming towards you. It smelt like burning’
‘It was a really hot intense fireball above my head. I’ve got burns to the top of my head. There were a lot of people a lot worse than me’
off. The train doors opened immediately and with the flames leaping in the air, commuters ran screaming for their lives.
In the carriage lay a smouldering white bucket in a Lidl supermarket shopping bag, wires trailing from the bucket on to the floor.
Chris Wildish, who was on the train, described the “device” in the last carriage. “Flames were still coming out of it when I saw it. It had a lot of wires hanging out of it – I can only assume it was done on purpose,” he said. “It was standing against the door of the rearmost carriage.”
The plastic bucket, still smouldering, was captured on a video taken by Sylvain Pennec. “It looked like a bucket of mayonnaise,” he said. “I’m not sure if it was a chemical reaction or something else, but it looked home made.”
The remains may not have impressed onlookers but the explosion had triggered – not surprisingly – mayhem.
Ryan Barnett, 25, who works in politics, was sitting listening to music. He said: “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’. I ended up squashed on the staircase, people were falling over, people fainting, crying, there were little kids clinging on to the back of me,” he said, “It was absolute chaos. At one stage we thought we might be trapped there – I heard a pregnant woman lost her shoes and had fallen over.”
Charlie Craven, who works in the City, said: “I stepped in [to the carriage], within two or three seconds there was a massive explosion. There was a massive fireball encompassing the whole carriage.
“We managed to get off, but there was mass hysteria and people shouting and screaming. A few of us ducked under the fence and ran down the track. We thought there could be a second bomb or a gunman – I thought that was us gone.”
Most passengers headed straight for the station exit via a staircase at the front of the train. The crush was every bit as terrifying as the explosion that preceded it. Witnesses described seeing a pregnant woman trampled under foot fearing for her baby. They told of a schoolboy, aged about 10, his head smashed on the floor of a concrete stair.
Emma Steventon, 27, a beauty blogger, who lives in Parsons Green, said: “We just all ran for our lives, and we didn’t know why, we didn’t hear an explosion. We got to the steps and it was just the worst proper human crush. There was a woman underneath me and there was a lady shouting: ‘I’m pregnant’. There was a little boy, his face had got smacked into the step.
“I was holding on to the railing in a foetal position trying not to put my weight on anyone but there was just layers and layers of people screaming.”
Olaniyi Shokunbi, 24, a fitness instructor who had been on the train, spotted a boy, lying on the floor, pleading for help to find his younger sibling.
“I really felt sorry for him, he couldn’t have been more than 11,” said Mr Shokunbi, “He had scratches on his head, he was looking for his little brother.”
Richard Aylmer-hall, 53, a media technology consultant, saw several people injured, trampled in the escape. “There was lots of shouting and screaming,” he said.
Outside the station, the rescue efforts continued. Sophie Raworth, the BBC news presenter, saw a woman on a stretcher with burns to her face and legs. “She’s conscious, she was taking oxygen and pain relief as well. She seemed to have burns all over her body from top to toe,” she said.
As the injured were being cared for, the hunt began for the bomber.
Heavily armed anti-terrorism officers continued to patrol the area. They carried “military-style” weaponry as they searched homes and gardens within the half-mile cordon.
Residents were evacuated shortly after the attack. The area is a wealthy, family-orientated neighbourhood where typical Victorian terrace houses can be worth anywhere between £2million to £4million.
Last night, five streets, from Elmstone Road to Whittingstall Road, remained inside the police cordon. Forensic tents could be seen being erected at the end of the streets.
Scotland Yard said the area surrounding Parsons Green Tube station had been evacuated so specialist officers could “secure the remnants of the improvised device and ensure it is stable”.
At Ride Republic, an exercise studio near the station, armed police evacuated the building. Rumours had abounded – later scotched – that there might have been a second bomb.
Nobody was taking any chances. The Zebedee Nursery was subject to a police cordon. Armed anti-terrorism officers stood guard and children were kept inside under their protection. Susan Gahan, the principal, said: “The police were amazing, we didn’t have many children as parents couldn’t get to us.”
The local Kensington Prep school was also in lockdown. Parents who raced to the scene were ordered into the White Horse Pub, a local landmark, to wait for news of their children. One mother, whose child is at the school, told The Daily Telegraph she had been informed that all the pupils had been moved to the building’s hall and the school had been closed off as a precaution.
In the coffee shop outside the Tube station, Rachel Green, 18, rushed to the aid of the distressed commuters. “We went to console them,” she said, “There were over 100 – women coming out without shoes, battered and bruised, and they’d left their handbags behind. Two people came in to the shop with their clothes burnt off, who said they saw a fire coming towards them. There were mothers with babies.”
A couple who had been due to get married at 3pm at St Dionis Church, which was inside the police cordon, suddenly found themselves in a race for a new venue. They succeeded in marrying half an hour later than planned at All Saints Church near Putney Bridge. The Bishop of Kensington, the Rt Rev Dr Graham Tomlin, said: “We had to move quite quickly. Moving a wedding is quite a complicated legal business. We managed to make it work so the couple could get married in All Saints Church, the parish next door. It is a bit of a sign that life can continue and good things happen really, in the middle of something deeply evil like this.”
London had come under attack again; the fourth time in six months. This was the first in that time in which nobody, thankfully, had been killed. The bomber had vanished last night, their identity still not known.
Mark Rowley, the Met Assistant Commissioner, said last night that the police were making “excellent progress” in the hunt for the terrorist, with officers trawling through hundreds of hours of CCTV footage and 77 images and videos taken by members of the public.
Mr Rowley said the decision to put troops on the street would free up around 1,000 armed officers to help reassure the public and keep people safe.
The troops will be deployed at places normally guarded by armed police officers, such as nuclear power stations and important public venues, but they will also be available to offer support in the event of a major terrorist attack.
Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, praised the city’s resilience. “Within moments, the brilliant TFL [Transport for London] staff were helping commuters embark and get to safety,” he said, “Local shopkeepers and commuters were helping other passengers who may have been hurt.”
In the coming days, the police presence on transport and at key sites will again be enhanced, said the mayor.
In a statement, he said: “Our city utterly condemns the hideous individuals who attempt to use terror to harm us and destroy our way of life.
“As London has proven again and again, we will never be intimidated or defeated by terrorism.” Life, he insisted, must go on. Londoners will agree with that.
The burning remains of the time-bomb left on the Tube train. It injured more than 20 but the main shrapnel-packed device failed to detonate sparing many more
The device, left, appeared not to have fully detonated but was instead left burning and smoking near a carriage exit. Right, a woman with her head bandaged is assisted by a police officer at Parsons Green station. Several victims were reported to have suffered burns, far right bottom, and were treated by medics. Others were hurt in the stampede that followed the blast, far right top
Passengers are helped from the train by emergency services, above. The streets around Parsons Green Tube station were sealed off, below left, by police, fire crews and anti-terrorism officers