Bus in London was DIVERTED, then picked up Tube survivors
London Guardian | July 8, 2005
The London transport system was coping with the peak of the morning rush hour when the coordinated terror attack the capital had feared became reality.
As thousands of commuters poured into the City to start work, the first bomb ripped through the second carriage of a Circle line train 100 yards inside a tunnel between Liverpool Street and Aldgate stations.
The blast sent a flash of flame down the outside of the train as the carriages reared up, flinging the 700 or so passengers on to the floor and filling the darkened carriages with smoke, grit and debris.
"The first thing I knew I saw silver travelling through the air, which was glass, and a yellow flash," said Michael Henning, 39, a City worker from Kensington. "Then I was getting twisted and thrown down on the ground. The blast just twisted and turned me. I was in the next carriage but within 10ft of where the bomb went off. I feel extremely lucky."
For a moment after the explosion, there was stunned silence inside the train. Then, as the realisation of what had happened began to sink in, the survivors started to fear the wreckage was about to be consumed in flames.
"It was very dark all around us," Mr Henning said. "People panicked and were screaming and a few of us were telling them to calm down. The girls were the calmest and they got things under control quickly. We tried to open the side doors, we were trying to pull them. The London underground drivers were trying to get them open from the outside but they weren't moving. There was a lot of dust and smoke. There was no communication, no Tannoy, no feedback."
Like many passengers in his carriage, Mr Henning had been injured by flying debris. He had glass in one eye and dozens of cuts and scratches over his face. Nevertheless, the sense of panic passed quickly and survivors concentrated their efforts on getting off the train.
"We tried to open the doors but the doors were fixed shut and the ash was settling everywhere," said Loyita Worley, 49, who had also been travelling in the third carriage.
As some passengers used their mobile phones to let loved ones know they were alive, some of the walking wounded were moving into less damaged carriages through connecting doors to get away from the smoke. "There was blood dripping off them, they were all white," Ms Worley said.
Mustafa Kurtuldu, a 24-year-old graphic designer from Hackney, said: "A lot of them had cuts and blood was gushing out of their faces."
Above ground, the rescue operation was already under way as the emergency services put their drills into practice. Aldgate and surrounding streets were sealed off minutes after the explosion, with ambulances arriving to carry the injured to nearby Royal London hospital in Whitechapel. The City of London was shut down as a 200-metre exclusion zone was set up around the Aldgate area.
Half an hour later and still trapped, the survivors decided to start moving towards the back of the train in the hope they could escape from there.
"By the time we got to the back of the train we could see torches and people coming up the tracks to us," Mr Kurtuldu said. "I still just thought it was an electric problem because of the bright white light."
It was only when they finally made it out on the tracks and were being led to safety that the survivors realised the scale of the carnage. "As they led us down the track past the carriage where the explosion was, we could see the roof was torn off it, and there were bodies on the track," Mr Kurtuldu said.
Mr Henning said: "There was part of the side wall missing. Some of the seats were missing. People were still in their seats and they were screaming with pain and were covered in blood down one side of their body. There was other people that were trapped and they were just left there."
Scott Wenbourne, another survivor, said: "I saw three bodies on the track. I couldn't look, it was so horrific. I think one was moving but I'm not too sure.
"There were also, I think, some bodies in the carriage, some were moving but I couldn't really look. No one was attending to them."
Derek Price, 55, from Essex, said he was surprised how calm the survivors were as they were led along the tracks past the wreckage. "Some people were upset but there wasn't panic, considering you could only see a few feet in front of your face."
It took about 30 minutes for the survivors to make it to the surface. "People were coming out covered in black soot, blood and grease. There was people lying at the side of the station on plastic sheeting," said Kabin Chibber, 24, who works in the Dow Jones building above Aldgate station.
Makeshift intensive care units were set up on the roadside to deal with the more seriously injured. Others were suffering from smoke inhalation, cuts and burns.
Among the walking wounded was Jack Linton, 14, who suffered cuts to his face. The schoolboy, from Hawkwell, Essex, was on his way to a work experience placement when he was caught in the blast. "I've got glass in my hair and my pockets, and my ear hurts," he said.
Gareth Davies, medical director of London Air Ambulance, was at Aldgate by 9.10am. "Initially the scene was quite overwhelming, it would shock anyone walking into that sort of area. But there was a quiet efficiency. People were very quiet and cracking on with their jobs."
Police at first believed two people had died in the Aldgate attack. But by mid-afternoon, as forensic officers began combing the wreckage, the death toll had risen to seven, with scores more injured.
King's Cross, 8.56am
One regular commuter on the packed Piccadilly line tube train said they instinctively knew a bomb had gone off when the train drew slowly to a halt after a blinding flash and loud bang.
The blast hit the train about three minutes south of King's Cross station. Survivors were led out of both ends of the tunnel - to the station the train had just left and Russell Square, the next on the line. Police later confirmed that 21 people had been killed and hundreds injured.
One woman caught up in the incident at Russell Square said: "Some people were able to carry other people who were much more badly injured than them. There were a lot of people with terrible burns. People were starting to get very dehydrated and very unwell. When the emergency services got there they had to carry people in blankets who had lost limbs."
The survivors emerging at Russell Square were greeted by further scenes of panic caused by the aftermath of another bomb attack on a double-decker bus at nearby Tavistock Square.
Jo Herbert, in an email to Guardian Unlimited, wrote: "I was stuck in a smoke-filled, blackened tube that reeked of burning for over 30 minutes. So many people were hysterical. I truly thought I was going to die and was just hoping it would be from smoke inhalation and not fire. I felt genuine fear but kept calm (and quite proud of myself for that).
"Eventually people smashed through the windows and we were lifted out, all walked up the tunnel to the station. There was chaos outside and I started to walk down Euston Road (my face and clothes were black) towards work and all of a sudden there was another huge bang and people started running up the road in the opposite direction to where I was walking and screaming and crying.
"I now realise this must have been the bus exploding."
Barry Kent was waiting anxiously on the edge of Russell Square behind the police cordons for his daughter Noam Rave, 18, who was on a train being evacuated at the station.
He had managed to speak to her only briefly. She told him there had been "a big bang and that they had evacuated the train, took them up to the station and kept them at the station and wouldn't let them out".
He had started communicating to her by text message at 10.32am. He managed to speak to her around this time, when he said she was "distraught and crying". At 10.34am his text messages show that she was inside Russell Square station. At 10.38am she was inside the hotel, then there was a gap before he heard from her again. At 11.27am she told him that she was "in Holiday Inn".
One survivor, Fiona Trueman, 26, was on the train a few minutes south of King's Cross when the explosion happened. Speaking outside the Royal London hospital, Whitechapel, Ms Trueman, who works in marketing for Sky News, said: "It was just horrendous; it was like a disaster movie. You can't imagine being somewhere like that - you just want to get out. I kept closing my eyes and thinking of outside. It was frightening because all the lights had gone out and we didn't hear anything from the driver, so we wondered how he was."
Tom Curry, 28, who works for internet service provider Bulldog, was on the Piccadilly line train. "We were coming out of King's Cross and there was a really big bang, a big, bright flash of light and loads of black smoke started to pour into the carriage," he said.
"Immediately, loads of black smoke was everywhere. I think it was soot from the inside of the tunnels. It was acrid and really hard to breathe."
John Sandy, in an email to Guardian Unlimited, said there was an eerie calm on the train. "As people started to panic, I turned to the man on my right and asked his name. He said he was Mark and he worked in HR. Then I asked the same of the girl on my left. Her name was Emma and she too worked in HR. Mark and Emma then began to talk to each other and we started to reassure the other passengers around us that everything would be OK," he said. "We left the train within around half an hour. I feel very lucky. The emergency services got everyone they could out in a calm and safe way but I would like to praise Mark and Emma for being so level-headed."
"People were trying to pass messages up and down the train. It was like Chinese whispers," said Mr Curry.
After 40 minutes, the fire brigade and London Underground staff arrived. Unable to open the doors of the train, they smashed windows and eventually opened the doors before leading passengers along the track in darkness to one of the two stations.
A paramedic who witnessed the scene of devastation said one carriage of a tube train had been completely destroyed and two were badly damaged and left smouldering. Later in the afternoon, a priest was escorted into the King's Cross station complex by police.
At nearby Great Ormond Street hospital - normally a children's hospital - beds were laid out in the reception and canteen to cope with the wounded from the blasts across London. The burger bar opposite the station was also converted into a makeshift first-aid room for the "walking wounded".
From the Piccadilly line and Tavistock Square attacks, the walking wounded and those suffering from shock were being accommodated at various locations around King's Cross and Bloomsbury: Camden Town Hall, Birkbeck College, a Holiday Inn at Marchmont Street, and for a while even the local branch of Burger King. The premises were sealed off to reporters by police and council officials with some reports that the Holiday Inn was also being used as an emergency mortuary.
Edgware Road, 9.17am
The Circle line tube train was just pulling out of Edgware Road station towards Paddington when it was rocked by a huge blast that blew the maintenance covers from the floor of several carriages. In the next instant there was a second bang as a train coming from the other direction smashed into the wreckage, having being hit by the force of the blast. Police later said the explosion had ripped though the tube carriage, a wall and two other trains.
"Our carriage filled with thick smoke and we were plunged into darkness," said Sara, 23, who was on her way to work at Wapping. "The next thing we heard was this unholy scream and this guy crying, 'Help me, help me, someone please help me.' It was pretty chilling."
Sara, who did not wish to give her last name, said she had later heard the man had lost both his legs. Staff at nearby St Mary's hospital treated 36 people. A spokeswoman said seven had died, six were in a critical condition, 17 were seriously injured and three had minor injuries. Several others had been discharged. The injuries included cuts and bruises, head injuries, limb injuries and hearing loss. Police later confirmed that there had been five deaths.
Travis Banko had just boarded the train and said the explosion had hit just 10 seconds after it pulled out of the station. "We were heading towards Kensington High Street," said the 24-year-old Australian insurance worker, whose face was speckled with blood. "It wasn't very full but then there was a massive explosion."
Mr Banko said he had been in the first carriage, in front of the one in which the explosion took place. "It blew out the side of the train. It was dark. Everyone was screaming. When the smoke cleared the second carriage was ripped apart like it had been done with a can opener."
Other witnesses also reported a huge hole being torn in the floor of the carriage, and said one of the men who died appeared to have fallen through the gap.
In the first carriage, people were "screaming and crying" but Mr Banko said that after an initial period of panic people had realised they were OK and started to help those who were injured.
Anita Kinselley, 29, from Essex, her face blackened by smoke, was somewhere towards the middle of the train when the explosion occurred. "The tiles on the floor of my carriage suddenly shot up. The next thing I knew there was an almighty crash and the train filled with smoke. I looked across and saw people in the train opposite us pounding on the windows and shouting 'let us out, let us out'. People were screaming for help."
Simon Tonkyn, a 51-year-old IT manager, was on his way from Paddington to Aldgate when the blast occurred. "There was just an enormous bang and a lot of smoke," said Mr Tonkyn, who together with fellow passengers used fire extinguishers to smash through his carriage door and escape.
Ms Kinselley was not sure how long she and the other passengers waited in the dark - maybe 10 minutes, maybe more. Eventually, however, underground staff arrived on the scene and began evacuating passengers from the back of the train and along the rails. Tony Dodd, 39, who works for Metronet, was one of those who went to help. "It was pretty awful down there," he said. "There were bodies and people were very badly burned."
They were taken first to a Marks & Spencer store but, by 10am, as more casualties arrived and the scale of the terrorist attacks became clearer, they were evacuated to safety to the Hilton Metro pole hotel on the opposite side of Edgware Road. Shopping trolleys filled with medical supplies were in the lobby. There, hotel staff and emergency medical teams provided aid to the wounded as best they could. Several were still bleeding from cuts and burns to their heads.
Some had glass fragments lodged in their hair, their faces blackened by smoke. Others had blood on their faces. One woman's head was swathed in bandages. Some were crying. One man, wearing a dressing gown taken from the store, followed the paramedics.
Earlier a priest was escorted into the Hilton to comfort those traumatised. One of the most seriously injured, a woman who gave her name as Davinia, was seated in the lobby, her head and neck bound in bandages. Like many of those being tended to by the triage teams she was too traumatised to speak. But it later emerged she had been near the front of the train when the blast hit. One survivor who spoke to her said: "All she could remember was a fireball coming towards her. She said it felt as if she had hit a wall."
Sean Baran, a 20-year-old US business student at the University of Virginia who had trained as a rescue worker in the US after 9/11, was one of those who helped the injured after getting off a bus near the station. "There were maybe 60 people taken into the hotel, which became a command post for the treatment of those not so seriously hurt," he said. "Doctors and nurses came in. We did triage on the injured. Most of the problems were excessive smoke inhalation and lacerations to the face.
"One gentleman told me the floor of the train had blown up. Another man said someone had been blown out of the train and been hit by another train going the other way."
Dozens of fire engines and police vans lined Edgware Road. At least 50 firefighters, 30 ambulance crews and just as many underground first-aid workers surrounded the scene. Bystanders gathered around a car radio, anxiously seeking news of the blast. Sniffer dogs appeared, checking traffic bollards and cars for concealed explosive. As it became clear that the blast was not an isolated incident, those involved frantically tried to reach loved ones but, as elsewhere, were unable to get through.
Tavistock Square, 9.47am
Diverted from his usual route along Euston Road, the driver of the Number 30 from Hackney to Marble Arch was struggling to navigate his way through the rush-hour traffic and the unfamiliar streets of Bloomsbury.
When he reached the corner of Upper Woburn Place and Tavistock Square, he decided to get help, and pulled over the double-decker to ask two Camden council parking attendants for directions.
As he beckoned them over, the bomb detonated.
"The next thing I knew there was a loud explosion and the top of the bus had been ripped off," Adesoji Adesi, one of the attendants told the Guardian.
According to eyewitnesses and police, the device appears to have been placed somewhere near the back of the bus's top deck.
Raj Mattoo, 35, who works at the charity Scope, said: "As I looked at the bus I saw it explode. The explosion was at the back. It ripped off the roof which was thrown 10 metres in the air. I shouted to the rest of the passengers to get off the bus. I saw the parking attendants. I ended up with blood on my hands."
"There was what seemed like a muffled bang and a huge plume of smoke," said Neil Courtis, 34, a financial journalist. "I went towards the blast and saw a woman with her left leg blown off. She looked in a bad way.
"I could smell cordite. The bus looked as if someone had peeled off the roof and there seemed to be bits of people around that had been blown through the windows."
But Mr Courtis said the scene was strangely calm. "The pavements were filled with pedestrians but there was no panic and no screaming. People were calling for anyone who knew first aid."
Last night, there were persistent claims that the attack was the work of a suicide bomber; some witnesses said they saw a man on the top deck acting strangely and rummaging around in his backpack immediately before the blast.
Police said they were unable to confirm or deny these claims. They also said they were unable to confirm how many people were killed or injured.
According to eyewitnesses, some people who had been evacuated from Russell Square tube station had boarded the bus just before it too was attacked.
The explosion happened 30 minutes after the attack on the Piccadilly line underground train around the corner at Russell Square and the streets were busy with stranded commuters as well as tourists staying in the dozens of hotels in the area.
One of them, the Tavistock, was turned into an emergency receiving centre to deal with the injured, who had congregated in the gated grass area of the square after the blast.
Streaked in blood
Among them was the other Camden traffic warden, Pedro Da-Sliver who had been carried there by his colleague. He appeared to have suffered a serious leg injury and was lying on his side in the bar area receiving treatment from paramedics.
They were also joined by doctors who had rushed to help from their offices in the British Medical Association building on the square. Such was the force of the explosion and the terrible human damage, it left the walls and windows of the building streaked in blood.
Ann Sommerville, head of the ethics department at the BMA, was just arriving at work when the bus blew up."Once it exploded you could hear cries of terror. You could smell a gunpowder, cordite kind of smell. There was stuff flying through the air but it didn't seem to come in big chunks."
Inside the Tavistock, the hotel receptionist Sam Elliott explained that a "couple of hundred" had been in the park that morning, both tourists and business people on their way to work.
Mr Elliott said four injured had been brought into the hotel. One with a head wound, one who was carried in off the street and two others who had "hearing impairment".
He said he had seen smoke but didn't see the bus.
Simon Poluck, a 37-year-old partner at accounting firm BSG Valentine, said he was on the far side of Lynton House, which also faces on to the square. "It was a bonfire sort of smell. Some of the girls were crying and were really upset; they were just coming into work at the time. Everyone just wants to get away from the area."
His colleague David Lee, also a partner at the firm, added: "I was at my desk when I heard the bomb and got a terrible whiff of cordite. Instead of going into the basement, I turned right and saw bodies being taken into our office.
"There were people coming up to me, pleading for help, and I didn't know what to do. I saw injured people being brought in and people wandering around with their clothes torn. It was horrific, gruesome. Their clothes were torn and hanging off," said Mr Lee, who put the time of the blast at around 9.50am.
Hotel guest Melissa Macauley, from California, told the Guardian that she had thought there had been an earthquake.
Robert O'Sullivan, chef at the Tavistock hotel, described how he was preparing for the day in the kitchen at the time of the explosion. "There was a loud bang and then there was a stampede down the street. It was like a bull run. If the bus had gone past two seconds later then I might be dead. I am still shaking."
Christine Feeny, who was staying at the Tavistock Hotel, said she was having breakfast when she heard a loud bang that shook the hotel.
"We were just about to get on board a sightseeing bus on Tavistock Square. Had we left 10 minutes or so earlier it could have been us on that bus. That's a very uncomfortable feeling."