Bus torn to pieces, says witness

 

LAST NIGHT'S explosion comes 10 days after the ending of the IRA ceasefire and was near to the scene of an IRA device found in a telephone box on Thursday. The explosion at 10.38 p.m. came as the bus was travelling along Wellington Street near the Strand.

One man who was drinking at the Wellington pub in the Strand said he knew immediately that it had been a bomb blast. "I heard a very loud explosion and a very loud bang. I saw a woman lying in the street, she was on her stomach and there was blood on her head. We rushed to the scene to help the injured."

Mr Anthony Yates (26) said he saw a big white flash in the sky. "I looked and then I saw a double decker bus but there was nothing left of it, it was completely blown to pieces.

"There was a guy lying outside the bus crying, `my legs, my legs'," Mr Yates said, according to Sky News. Another victim had blood streaming from his jaw.

Mr Ewoud Karelse was in a nearby pub when the explosion went off. When he went outside he saw the bus had been split in two, "like a can of Coke being torn apart".

The injured were brought to St Thomas's Hospital, a mile from the scene, where a spokeswoman confirmed that five men and a woman had been admitted. Most had arrived in a deep state of shock, either in wheelchairs or on foot.

One, however, was brought into the accident and emergency wing "wearing a neck brace, hooked up to an intravenous drip." Of the six people admitted last night, the spokeswoman said, "five are at this stage not critical but one has serious head injuries and has gone straight to the operating theatre.

Two more casualties, including a middle aged man, who was brought to the intensive care unit at University College Hospital with chest injuries, was described by a spokesman to be in a "serious but stable condition."

Within minutes of the blast the Metropolitan Police were clearing people out of the area. All surrounding streets on the Strand were sealed off in case a second device might be found.

Early reports indicate that Scotland Yard did not receive any coded warnings before the explosion.

The Strand is one of the busiest thoroughfares in London, but as the bomb went off, eyewitnesses say it was unusually quiet, possibly due to heavy rain which saw many of the tourists emerging from West End theatres going directly to their hotels.

A taxi driver, Mr John Jones, who was driving in the area said he believed the explosion came from the front of the double decker bus. "There was a dull thud and then there was nothing left of the bus at all, just a skeleton. It "all went up in smoke."

He added: "There were two people I saw who looked badly injured and one of them was the bus driver who was covered in blood."

Another taxi driver who was only 20 yards away from the bus, said he crouched under his steering wheel to prevent himself from being injured. "There was a loud bang and glass and debris was all over road. I saw many of the windows of nearby buildings blown out and it caused a lot of damage to my cab. I saw one guy just walk out of the hole caused by the explosion. It was quite unbelievable he was able to walk away, I reckon he won the lottery."

Mr Raymond Levy, a solicitor, said he helped a passer by to turn off the bus engine to prevent further chaos. "The engine of the bus was still running and I was very worried that the petrol would explode.

"The emergency services were on the scene within minutes. I saw one woman who was obviously distressed and she was running screaming down the street."

A police spokesman said the area would be closed to traffic and pedestrians today.