Recovering bodies could take many days

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The Independent Online

The gruesome task of recovering human remains from the three London Tube blasts could take many more days, police warned last night.

The death toll so far from the atrocities is 49, with all visible bodies removed from the four sites. Detectives said it was unlikely the number of victims would rise to 70 as had been feared.

All the torsos in the first carriage of the train blown up near King's Cross have been recovered. Searchers are now focusing on other carriages and getting under the train to extract any unseen crushed corpses.

Laborious work collecting and bagging evidence from the two other tube bomb blast sites, Aldgate and Edgware Road, is also continuing. Police believe all bodies have been retrieved from those locations.

The daunting conditions near King's Cross, where rescue teams are enduring temperatures of 60C, fumes, dust and rats, means the operation is agonisingly slow. The teams, working in a cramped area, are shoring up the damaged tunnel roof to prevent it from collapsing.

Workers wear contamination suits and ventilation has been installed in the Piccadilly line tunnel, which is 100ft below the surface.

Deputy chief constable Andy Trotter, of British Transport Police, said: "This is a slow, painstaking and methodical task.It's going to be well into next week before the sites are cleared."

A police source said rescue teams believed they had extracted all the torsos of people killed in the King's Cross explosion. The teams now had to collect individual body parts and DNA material from victims whose bodies were destroyed by the blast. It will be matched with fingerprint and DNA samples from suspected victims.

Describing the grisly scene, the police source said: "You have arms, you have legs, you have hands, you have feet, you have organs."

The slightest scrap of evidence could prove invaluable, in the IRA Brighton bomb blast of 1984a fragment of detonator embedded in a thumb provided the vital breakthrough.

Detective Superintendent Jim Dickie, the police senior identification manager, said: "There may be people who we can identify quite quickly - there will be others that will take us two or three weeks to identify."

At the site of the bus explosion at Tavistock Square, investigators have started examining surrounding buildings for debris. Vehicles near the bus were yesterday being removed.

Sergeant Gary Locker, who is leading the work at all four sites, said team members were volunteers who had been tested to ensure they were mentally fit.

He said: "These officers want to be there. They are totally committed to the role they are performing."