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London attack: Eyewitnesses say lots of screaming, people covered in blood

Metropolitan Police said the blast took place at Parsons Green station in West London. Reports say passengers could be seen with facial burn and hair on fire.

world Updated: Sep 16, 2017 11:04 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
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An explosion on a London underground train on Friday morning left several passengers with burn injuries on the face and hair on fire. Heavily armed police were seen rushing to the Parsons Green station on the District line, said media reports. ‘We are aware of an incident at Parsons Green tube station. Officers are in attendance,’ London police said on Twitter. (Kevin Coombs / REUTERS)

Scotland Yard declared an explosion on the arterial District Line of London’s Tube network on Friday as a terror incident, which injured several passengers and hit morning rush hour, reminding some of the panic caused by the July 2005 attacks.

The blast in a white canister at Parson Green Station in south-west London caused burn injuries to some passengers. The police said its Counter-Terrorism Command was investigating the incident.

“Deputy Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu, the senior national coordinator for CT policing, has declared it a terrorist incident,” Scotland Yard said in a statement.

It said officers from the Met’s Counter Terrorism Command are investigating.

Police were called at approximately 08:20 am local time to the underground station following reports of a fire on the train, the statement added.

“Officers from the Metropolitan Police Service and British Transport Police attended the scene, along with colleagues from the London Fire Brigade and London Ambulance Service. At present we are aware of a number of people who have suffered injuries.”

The station remained cordoned off and people were advised to avoid the area.

In the wake of the blast, there was a stampede at the station as people rushed to move out. The London Ambulance Service said several resources had been devoted to the incident.

Prime Minister Theresa May was being kept posted on the progress of the investigation, but foreign secretary Boris Johnson said: “I’m afraid my information is limited and it really is important not to speculate at the moment”.

“Obviously, everybody should keep calm and go about their lives in a normal way, as normal as they possibly can. As far as I understand it, the British Transport Police and Transport for London are on it.”

Ordnance factory personnel were at the scene to investigate the blast. The District Line was closed between Earl’s Court and Wimbledon, with severe delays on the rest of the busy line.

Eyewitness Sham told BBC: “At first I thought they were in a bit of a rush or whatever but actually looked and the whole staircase was full of people. There were people on the floor, all like toppling over each other just trying to get out as quickly as they could and there were loads of people crying and shaking”.

He added that there were “loads of people limping and covered in blood and stuff from like where they’d fallen over and hurt themselves.”

Another eyewitness, Emma said: “We were running down the stairs like.. it felt like for our lives... like sprinting, so happy I was wearing trainers...And I went down the stairs and after a while people were just piling on top of each other, because people were falling over trying to run so quickly”.

“And there were two ladies underneath me and a little boy to my right, his head had been smacked into the concrete.”

One eyewitness told Reuters flames engulfed one carriage and raced along the train, forcing passengers to trample others as they rushed for an exit.

“I just heard a kind of whoosh. I looked up and saw the whole carriage engulfed in flames making its way towards me,” he said, adding that the train was packed with people.

Another Reuters witness could see six ambulances, fire engines and a helicopter at the station

Outside the Parsons Green station, a woman was seen sitting on a pavement with a bandage around her leg while armed police patrolled. A Reuters witness saw a woman being carried off on a stretcher with her legs covered in a foil blanket.

Media technology consultant Richard Aylmer-Hall, 53, was sitting on the District line train bound for central London at about 8.20am when he said panic unfolded around him.

Emergency services at the scene following a blast on an underground train at Parsons Green tube station in west London on Friday. (Reuters)

“Suddenly there was panic, lots of people shouting, screaming, lots of screaming,” he said. “There was a woman on the platform who said she had seen a bag, a flash and a bang, so obviously something had gone off.”

He added: “I saw crying women, there was lots of shouting and screaming, there was a bit of a crush on the stairs going down to the streets. Some people got pushed over and trampled on. I saw two women being treated by ambulance crews.”

A Metro.co.uk reporter at the scene was quoted by the paper as saying that a white container exploded on the train and passengers had suffered facial burns.

She said they were “really badly burned” and their “hair was coming off”.

London Fire Brigade also said they were at the scene and were called at 8:21 am.

The London ambulance issued the following statement:

US President Donald Trump claimed that the perpetrators of the attack was someone known to British authorities, tweeting that they were “loser terrorists” and “sick and demented people who were in the sights of Scotland Yard”.

However, Prime Minister Theresa May did not take too kindly to Trump’s comments. “I never think it’s helpful for anybody to speculate on what is an ongoing investigation,” she said.

Britain has already suffered four attacks blamed on terrorists so far this year which killed 36 people. (with inputs from agencies)