LONDON(AP)- Near simultaneous explosions rocked at least five London subway stations and ripped apart a double-decker bus at the morning rush hour Thursday, police said, causing at least two deaths, reportedly injuring at least 95 people and sending bloodied victims fleeing from debris-strewn blast sites.
A shaken British Prime Minister Tony Blair, hosting the G-8 leaders in Scotland, declared London had suffered "a series of terrorist attacks" and called it "barbaric". "There are people who have died and people who are injured," he said, adding that it was clear the attacks had been carried out to coincide with the summit.
The explosions caused officials to shut down the entire bus and underground transport network. They came a day after London was awarded the 2012 Olympics.
Sky News showed a picture of a mangled red bus with its top collapsed. Bloodied and bandaged witnesses reported panicked crowds fleeing as the blast rained glass and other debris onto the street.
BBC TV broadcast footage of a paramedic trying to revive one of the wounded, pumping the chest of his bloodied and blackened body."There have been a number of dreadful incidents across London today," said Home Secreatary Charles Clarke, Britain”s top law enforcement officer. He said there were "terrible injuries."
Germany”s Der Spiegel news magazine reported a group calling itself " the Secret Organization of al-Qaeda in Europe" has posted a claim of responsibility for the blasts on a web site popular with Islamic militants, which it did not name. It said the group claimed the explosions were in retaliation for Britain”s involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Police said they had reports of at least two deaths and nine people injured in six blasts. Paul Woodrow, an official with the ambulance service, told reporters that rescue operations were ongoing and that "there are large numbers of casualties and we believe there are a number of fatalities." Officials at the Royal London Hospital told BBC that the 95 injured had been brought into that hospital alone.
London police chief Ian Blair said authorities found indications of explosives at the scene of one of the blasts. He said there had been no warning. "We are concerned that this is a coordinated attack. We
are aware that one of the sites does contain indications of explosives," Blair said on Sky News. "We have been at a very high state of alert. Of course if there had been any kind of specific warnings we would have dealt with it," he said.
The explosions sent stocks plummeting in Europe. The FTSE 100 dropped 207.54 points to 5022.10 by early afternoon. The DAX was down 3 percent at 4,474.35, while in Paris, the CAC 40 dropped 3.5 percent. Exchanges elsewhere in Europe were also down. The British pound fell to US$1.7443, from US$1.7567 in late trading Wednesday.
Jay Kumar, owner of a news agent near the site of the bus blast in Russell Square in Central London, said he ran out of his shop when he heard a loud explosion. He said the top deck of the bus had collapsed, sending people tumbling to the floor. Many appeared badly injured, and bloodied people ran from the scene. "A big blast, a big bomb," he told The Associated Press. "People were running this way panicking. They knew it was a bomb. Debris flying all over, mostly glass."
Another witness said the entire top deck of that bus was destroyed.
"I was on the bus in front and heard an incredible bang, I turned around and half the double decker bus was in the air," Belinda Seabrook told Press Association, the British news agency. She said the bus was packed with people. "It was a massive explosion and there were papers and half a bus flying through the air," she said.
Prime Minister Blair said the G-8 summit focusing on climate change and aid for Africa from which Iraq has largely been left off the agenda, would go on as he returned temporarily to London.
Italy”s European commissioner was quoted by Italian news agencies saying that the explosions were a terrorist strike against Europe.
"What has happened is the tragic confirmation that terrorism strikes once more at the heart of Europe," Franco Frattini was reported as saying by the Apcom and ANSA news agencies. "It”s necessary to immediately activate coordination between intelligence and police services and offer England all the help possible," Frattini, Europe”s commissioner for justice and home affairs, was quoted as saying.
Police said explosions were reported at the Aldgate station near the Liverpool Street railway terminal, Edgware Road and King”s Cross in north London, Old Street in the financial district and Russell Square, near the British Museum. Woodrow, the ambulance official, said emergency services had also been sent to Moorgate and Leicester Square subway stations. Aldgate, in East London, is close to the site where London”s main Olympic facilities will be built. London Ambulance Service said several vehicles had been dispatched to the area near Liverpool Street station.
Simon Tonkyn, 51, who had been traveling from Paddington station to Aldgate, in east London, told Press Association, "There was just an enormous bang and a lot of smoke. A group of us got fire extinguishers and were able to smash through the carriage door and I now just feel totally numb," he said.