A bomb went off Monday at Victoria Station, 45 minutes after a caller claiming to represent the IRA said there would be an explosion, police reported. The blast killed one man and injured 37 other people.
Heathrow Airport was evacuated several hours later, after authorities received a "non-specific threat," a British Airports Authority spokesman said. Incoming flights were diverted to other airports, while airplanes that were on runways were allowed to take off, he said.Commander George Churchill-Coleman, head of Scotland Yard's anti-terrorist unit, told reporters there had been a telephone warning from a man with an Irish accent at 7:46 a.m.
The warning came less than three hours after a device similar to the Victoria Station bomb exploded in Paddington Station, where only a dozen employees were on duty and no one was injured.
The caller said: "We are the Irish Republican Army. Bombs to go off at all mainline stations in 45 minutes," Churchill-Coleman told a news conference.
He said the warning was passed to the British Transport Police, who already were searching all the main railway terminals."You will appreciate the vagueness of the information, the manner in which it was passed, combined with the time lapse involved was quite deliberate," Churchill-Coleman said. The bomb "was quite deliberately intended to maim and kill," he added.
Matthew Cyprus, 22, who lost part of his right foot, described the Victoria Station explosion, saying: "There was a big blinding light, a wall of fire, followed by a noise which came toward me and then I fell over on to the floor."
Jeremy Rose, who was inside the terminal when the bomb exploded, said he saw a man "with half his face missing. It was like he had gone through a car windshield at 100 mph."
Reporters who were allowed into Victoria Station saw trails of blood leading from the concourse to the front entrance, and knapsacks apparently abandoned in panic.
British Rail closed all mainline stations after the bombings, suspending service that carries half a million people into the capital every day.
The explosions came 11 days after the IRA, which is fighting to drive the British from Northern Ireland, fired three mortar bombs at government offices, including one at the prime minister's official residence.
The IRA last attacked a civilian establishment in London on July 20, when a bomb blew a hole in the wall of the Stock Exchange. No one was injured. In 1983, five people were killed and 91 were injured by an IRA bomb at Harrod's department store.
One person was dead on arrival Monday at Westminster Hospital, where 31 other people, including a boy, were treated for injuries, said hospital spokesman Jonathan Street.
Dr. Jeremy Booth said six people were seriously injured. He said the injuries mostly consisted of injuries to the "extremities, to arms and to legs, soft tissue injuries and also some fractures."
Jane Gamble, a spokeswoman for St. Thomas hospital, said six people were treated for "very minor injuries" there.
Witnesses said the explosion appeared to have caused little damage to Victoria, the main terminal for commuters living to the south of London and also the link to Gatwick airport.
The Paddington Station device, which exploded at 4:20 a.m. (10:20 p.m. MST) was left on the train concourse near platforms six to eight and shattered windows in an office block belonging to state-run British Rail, police said.
Police believed the explosion may have caused some structural damage to the station, a spokesman said. Paddington is the main terminal for trains from the west.