Holiday family injured by bomb

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THE GIDDINGS family, from the New Forest, flew to South Africa to see the famed Namaqualand flowers that blanket the Western Cape for a brief but magical spell in the spring.

Yesterday, three generations of the family were lying in hospital in Cape Town, including eight-year-old Laura Giddings, whose foot was amputated after an explosion ripped through the Planet Hollywood restaurant, on the fashionable Waterfront complex, killing one and injuring 27.

Laura's three-year-old brother, Jacob, was with her in intensive care at City Park Hospital. His spine was severely damaged by a blast so strong that it momentarily lifted the roof off the restaurant.

Yesterday afternoon their mother, Mandy, 35, was undergoing surgery. Their father, Tony, 38, who runs a family timber firm in Southampton, and grandfather, Brian, 65, were operated on earlier in the day.

All three adults suffered shrapnel wounds to their legs after a device, thought to be a home-made pipe bomb, exploded in the bar area as they were waiting to be seated.

The five were said to be seriously ill, but stable. Only Iris Giddings, the children's 65-year-old grandmother, was unhurt.

Yesterday, speaking from a hotel in Cape Town, she said: "We had just arrived and were being shown to our seats when the whole place was torn apart. There was a flash and then everything went dark as the ceilings and walls seemed to come down upon us.

"I was knocked down and saw my family all lying injured before me. It was one of the worst things I could imagine seeing. There was absolute chaos."

It was Iris and Brian Giddings who persuaded the younger couple to holiday in South Africa with their children. Mrs Giddings said they had been captivated by its "tremendous natural beauty" and by "welcoming and obliging" locals on previous trips.

They were 10 days into a three-week holiday and had been staying in a rented villa, visiting the countryside around Cape Town.

Jill McCreath, 69, the next-door neighbour of Tony and Mandy Giddings in their home village of Bramshaw, near Southampton, said: "To think that a little girl has been maimed for life is absolutely appalling. They are lovely children from a close-knit family who are very much part of the community."

One of Tony Giddings' brothers, Robert, was preparing to fly to Cape Town last night.

Yesterday Planet Hollywood, an unabashed celebration of all things American, was cordoned off by barbed wire while South African police and American FBI agents searched for clues.

Witnesses described the appalling scenes that greeted them after the explosion.

The manager of a neighbouring restaurant said that black smoke was billowing from the front door when he arrived. "People were shrieking, everyone was shell-shocked, standing around with their hands over their faces," he said.

Some wondered what sort of person strolls into a restaurant crowded with laughing people and coolly places a bag containing a bomb on the floor.

Fanie Schoeman, 50, one of 20 people from the city's Standard Bank who were holding a farewell party in Planet Hollywood for a colleague, lost both his legs and died soon after reaching hospital.

His wife, Antoinette, was among the injured, and another bank employee was critically ill yesterday.