Bomb Explodes at Victoria Station After Caller Warned of Blast; One Dead
LONDON (AP) _ A bomb exploded at Victoria station during morning rush hour Monday, 45 minutes after a caller claiming to represent the IRA warned of bombs at all of London’s main railway stations, police said. One man was killed and 40 people were injured.
The Irish Republican Army claimed responsibility, but blamed the carnage on authorities who decided not to close stations.
″All future warnings should be acted upon,″ said a statement from the IRA.
The explosion at Victoria station came less than three hours after a bomb exploded at Paddington station, another the main rail gateway to western England and Wales. Only a dozen employees were on duty, and no one was injured.
The Victoria explosion at 7:46 a.m. sent screaming commuters running from the terminal, some trailing blood across the concourse. Rail traffic to and from London was halted for hours.
″The cynical decision of senior security personnel not to evacuate railway stations named in secondary warnings, even three hours after the warning device had exploded at Paddington in the early hours of this morning was directly responsible for the casualties at Victoria,″ the IRA statement said.
The incidents were the first attacks on a British rail station credited by the IRA in 15 years.
The warning was delivered by a man with an Irish accent who said: ″We are the Irish Republican Army. Bombs to go off at all mainline stations in 45 minutes,″ said Scotland Yard’s anti-terrorist chief, Cmdr. George Churchill- Coleman.
Churchill-Coleman said the call was only one of a number of threats following the Paddington explosion, and that the others ″transpired either to be false or malicious.″
Iain McGregor, deputy chief constable of the British Transport Police, said his department gets about six bomb threats a day.
Churchill-Coleman said the warning was passed to the British Transport Police, who already were searching all the main railway terminals when the blast at Victoria occurred.
The bomb, which was hidden in a trash can on the concourse, ″was quite deliberately intended to maim and kill,″ he said.
British Rail Chairman Robert Reid said it is not unusual for police to keep rail stations open after a bomb warning.
″Let’s face it, as soon as you have an incident, your telephone lines are choked with hoax calls. Since these two incidents we’ve had hoax calls all the way up the line,″ Reid said in an interview on British Broadcasting Corp. radio.
British Rail closed all mainline stations in London after the bombings, suspending service that carries 500,000 people into the capital every day.
Several hours after the Victoria blast, Heathrow airport, Britain’s busiest, was evacuated briefly Monday after police received a vague bomb threat, an airport spokeswoman said. Police searched and found nothing.
The blast at Victoria killed a man in his 30s and injured at least 40 people, Churchill-Coleman said.
Matthew Cyprus, 22, who lost part of his right foot, described the explosion from his hospital bed.
″There was a big blinding light, a wall of fire, followed by a noise which came toward me and then I fell over onto the floor,″ he told reporters.
Jeremy Rose, who was buying a ticket at the time of the explosion, said he saw a man ″with half his face missing. It was like he had gone through a car windshield at 100 mph.″
Bus driver Jaynti Patel described a young girl running away from the blast. ″Then her legs just gave out and she collapsed on the floor. She was trembling. She was shaking so bad,″ he said.
Patel said he also saw a man, his shirt and jacket covered in blood, lying on the floor as emergency workers aided him.
Monday’s explosions came 11 days after the IRA fired three mortar bombs at government offices, including one at the prime minister’s official residence.
The overwhelmingly Roman Catholic IRA, which is fighting to drive the British from Northern Ireland and link the Protestant-dominated province with the Irish Republic, last attacked a non-government establishment in London on July 20.
In that attack, a bomb blew a hole in the wall of the Stock Exchange. No one was injured.
There had been no bombings at railway stations since an incident at Cannon Street station in 1976. Victoria was one of three stations hit during an intensive IRA bombing campaign in 1973.
Paddington Station is the main terminal for trains from the west. Victoria, near Buckingham Palace, is the main gateway to the south, Gatwick Airport and European destinations.