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Tar explosions cause IRA panic

A series of explosions which renewed fears of an IRA campaign in central London yesterday turned out to be gas cylinders ignited by a fire in a tar boiler. The blasts rocked the Strand near Trafalgar Square sending a sheet of flame 20ft into the air above a building under renovation.

Office workers lunching in Victoria Embankment gardens ran from the scene in terror. A workman said: "There was a flame which went about 20 feet in the air and then a couple of explosions. People in the garden were agitated. People were running up and down the road."

Parts of Charing Cross station and the junction of the Strand and Villiers Street were cordoned off. An accountant who works nearby said: "It was like an earthquake."