After the horror, the agonising wait: Death toll approaches 80 as roll call of missing grows

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The death toll from Thursday's bomb attacks on Londoners could approach 80, police said yesterday. They are currently pursuing more than 1,000 missing persons inquiries, and had logged by early yesterday afternoon 105,000 calls to their Casualty Bureau's phone lines.

And the continuing force of Thursday's blasts was felt, too, as more details emerged, each as indiscriminate in their cruelty as the original acts: the "two to three weeks" that the families of the missing may have to wait to learn if their relatives are among the dead; the confirmed toll of 49; the 65 injured who remain in hospital, the 12 in intensive care, the three others still critical; the 60C heat in which rescue workers toil amid the bodies and body parts in tunnels 10 feet wide; and, most of all, the countless numbers to whom the faces on this page are not just victims, but mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, partners, and friends.

The shock waves that began at 8.50am three days ago yesterday continued to spread both above and below the city's streets. Above ground, relatives of the missing toured hospitals, asking if John or Jamie or Shahara Islam were there. They posted messages on websites: have you seen Anthony Fatayi, Behnaz Mozakka, Monika Suchocka, or Ania Brandt? Where is Philip Russell, Susan Levy, Miriam Hyman, Emily Jenkins, Ciaran Cassidy, Neetu Jain, Richard Ellery, and Christian Njoya Small? So much yearning. So little news.

On lamp-posts and walls and phone boxes they stuck home-made posters appealing for news of their loved ones, many bearing family snaps that had faces almost too carefree to bear. Above one, carrying a grainy photo of Gordon, a 30-year-old financial adviser, were the words: "Have you seen this man?"

The answer to that, as many relatives were beginning to acknowledge, almost certainly lay 100ft below the streets in the tunnel of the Piccadilly line. Here was a scene out of Hades. In the section of the narrow tunnel near Russell Square rescuers were still trying to recover bodies in temperatures that reached 60C. There were, they reported, rats, extreme heat, dust, soot, and the risk of asbestos - and an unknown number of bodies. Inside those wrecked carriages, there were 20, maybe more. When recovered, the bodies will be taken to a temporary mortuary at a military site in central London.

Above ground, more yearning. Does anybody know of Karolina Gluck, Benedetta Ciaccia, Helen Jones, Adrian Johnson, Xavier Rebergue? And what of my sister Laura, asked David Webb who stood outside the King's Cross Underground station yesterday clutching a framed photograph of his 29-year-old sister, Laura, who took the Tube to work Thursday morning and has not been seen since. "We don't know where she is," he said, "but we have to remain confident that we'll hear from her soon."

There are still bodies at the two other Tube blast sites - at Aldgate and Edgware Road stations - although it is thought the Russell Square site is the only one where they still inside the train.

There, the affected carriage is several hundred yards from the station. Only a certain number of rescuers can work inside the tunnel at any one time and the teams have to return to the surface periodically, so harrowing are the conditions.

On Thursday, the nation will have a chance to show its feelings with a two-minute -silence at noon. A week on from those four blasts that reverberate ever louder will come 120 seconds of peace. And, amid all that silence, will the families of Anthony, Behnaz, Monika, Ania and Anat still be yearning for an answer?