Bombers hit London's West End

2.30am news:; IRA man may be among three feared dead as peace hopes blasted again

A bomb ripped apart a double-decker bus in central London last night, leaving three people feared dead and one man critically ill in hospital.

The explosion happened on the bus at Lancaster Place, near the Strand, at 22.38pm. A London Transport spokesman said he believed the bus was a number 171 New Cross to King's Cross service.

The blast happened just nine days after the IRA's Docklands bomb, which killed two people, and three days after 11lb of Semtex explosive was found and defused in a telephone box in Charing Cross Road, the heart of London's theatreland.

With the crisis growing over the escalating level of violence started by the Docklands bomb, Scotland Yard said that it had received no warning before the bomb went off. Police at the scene were working on one theory that the bomber, presumed to be a member of the IRA, had accidentally blown up himself and the bus on the way to plant the device.

Early reaction suggested last night that the bomb had rocked remaining hopes of rebuilding an increasingly fragile peace process. John Taylor, the Ulster Unionist MP, said: "If people are letting off bombs in buses . . . then the peace process is over in the meantime."

Fears were also growing of a return to violence in Northern Ireland, with sources predicting that loyalist paramilitaries would no longer hold back.

Emergency services, including five fire engines and 10 ambulances, rushed to the incident last night, in which a taxi was also said to be involved. Witnesses said they saw shards of metal, which were all that remained of the bus's top floor, and that windows throughout the area had been blown in by the force of the explosion.

Rescue attempts were hampered by further, simultaneous reports of another suspect device planted nearby in Villiers Street, Charing Cross.

A taxi driver, John Jones, who was only 100 yards away from the blast scene, said the explosion appeared to come from the front of the bus, an old-style London Transport Routemaster. "There was like a dull thud and suddenly there was nothing left of the bus at all, just a skeleton. It all went up in smoke," he said.

"There were two people who I saw who looked badly injured and one of them was the bus driver, who was all covered in blood." He added: "Fortunately there weren't many people around at that time of night and most of the pubs were closed.

Mark Johnson, 25, was with friends in the Wellington pub, 100ft from the scene of the blast. He said: "We were standing in the upstairs of the pub having a beer with a group of friends when suddenly we heard a very loud bang. We all reacted very quickly. Many of the people in the pub dived to the floor.

"We went outside and saw that all the downstairs windows of the pub had been blown in. I saw a woman lying in the street and there was a great deal of debris and broken glass. The police arrived almost immediately.

"People rushed to help the injured woman. There were a number of other buses parked ahead and we were worried that there might be another bomb.

"That was a little too close for comfort," said Mr Johnson, a law student from Toronto, Canada : "I only flew into London on Friday."

Charles Schlumberger, a Swiss banker from UBS bank, said: "I was coming out of the Savoy crossing towards Waterloo Bridge when I saw the explosion about 100 metres ahead. I felt the shockwave from the blast and then there was a wall of debris, mainly glass, that started raining down in front of me. At first there was silence, some people fell to the ground straight away, others stood screaming."

"I saw one woman come out of the bus; she had a black coat on. I don't know if she was dead or badly injured. I saw three people running to help her."

Jonathan Bray, a homeless man who sleeps rough in Covent Garden, said: "The top of the bus folded in on itself. I saw one person on the floor, he was in a really bad way. The driver had been blown out of the bus. On the back of the bus there was a man holding a bag. He was burnt to a crisp."

One of the first on the scene was BBC radio reporter Paul Rowan, who said: "The entire bus seemed to be blown away. There was metal and glass for around 50 yards all over the place. I saw one woman who looked in a very bad way, she was face down on the road with bad-looking head injuries."

One witness, Anthony Yates, 26, said: "When the bomb went off, a taxi drove into the bus. The NatWest bank outside was badly hit."

Raymond Levy, a solicitor, was in his car only 30ft away from the blast. "I thought there was only the bus driver on board and when I got out of the car and got to the bus, he had got out but there were flames everywhere," he said. "The engine was still running and I was worried that the petrol would explode.

"With the help of a cab driver we undid the bonnet of the bus and turned the engine off. There were a few passers-by around and one woman was in shock and was running down the road screaming."

Scott Grover, 32, an American tourist from Boston, said: "The front of the bus was completely blown away but there didn't seem to be many people in it and I don't know how many were injured. There was debris everywhere."

London Ambulance said that six injured people - five men and one woman - were admitted to St Thomas's Hospital last night. Two people were reported to have been taken to University College Hospital. One middle-aged man was in intensive care with chest injuries, in a "serious but stable" condition, a spokesman said.

News
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Sport
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
film
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
News
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Sport
Louis van Gaal would have been impressed with Darren Fletcher’s performance against LA Galaxy during Manchester United’s 7-0 victory
football
Voices
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Sport
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
sport
News
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
life
News
Tovey says of homeless charity the Pillion Trust : 'If it weren't for them and the park attendant I wouldn't be here today.'
people
Sport
Rhys Williams
commonwealth games
News
Isis fighters travel in a vehicle as they take part in a military parade along the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Life and Style
fashionLatex dresses hit the catwalk to raise awareness for HIV and Aids
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

Service Delivery Manager (Software Development, Testing)

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established software house ba...

Day In a Page

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little