'Doors flew open, the lights went out, people were screaming ? it was chaos'

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The Independent Online

There was a huge bang, the lights went out, and the carriages began to fill with clouds of dust. Passengers were trapped underground in a crowded and confined space after their Tube train derailed and hit a tunnel wall at around 1.50pm yesterday.

There was a huge bang, the lights went out, and the carriages began to fill with clouds of dust. Passengers were trapped underground in a crowded and confined space after their Tube train derailed and hit a tunnel wall at around 1.50pm yesterday.

"The train was bouncing up and down and people were flying all over the place," said Chris Mathers, who had staggered out of Chancery Lane Tube station in central London into the daylight and fresh air. "The doors smashed open. Lights were out; it was complete chaos. Then there was a lot of smoke and debris. It was very frightening."

Lawrence Corrigan had been in the last carriage. "Just as we got to the station, there was a massive bang and the glass in the window behind us actually caved in," he said. "The lights just went off, and the doors on the side opposite the platform opened."

But the doors on the right side of the train wouldn't budge. Several passengers tried to force them but they would not open more than six inches, said Mr Corrigan. "Somebody shouted 'I just want out!' There were a lot of people screaming," said the electronics lecturer from Cumbria. "There was a lot of dust about and fumes."

The emergency door at the rear of the carriage opened and passengers pushed past each other in the confined space in order to get out first. A pushchair became jammed in the narrow opening, but the mother grabbed her child from it. Those behind had to pull the discarded buggy out of their way. As they staggered on to the platform, passengers heard an announcement over the public address system that there might have been "an accident".

Jo Lewis said she heard the driver saying, "Mayday, mayday, everybody get off." Some people tried to smash windows to help others get free. "We managed to get out, somebody broke down the connecting door between the carriages – we had to climb out the gap between. People were bleeding from being pushed and stuff like that. It was so scary."

More than 30 of the 800 passengers on board were taken to hospital. Many others suffered shock. The train had been going "at speed" as it approached Chancery Lane station on the Central Line, which runs east-west through the centre of the capital. James Murray, 28, said it "ploughed into a side wall. People were falling into me, it was out of control, it was very frightening. There was a hell of a lot of dirt and dust."

Mr Murray, who works in computers, said he had to walk through other carriages to find a door that would open. "There was no one from the Underground to help. I was out of the station before the emergency services arrived."

Lionel Jordan heard about the derailment on the news and called London Underground to find out what was happening. He was worried for his daughter Emma, 19, who had gone shopping in the West End from her home in Epping. "All they would say was that there had been an incident. They didn't know what it was and they put us through to customer services who couldn't tell us anything.''

Mr Jordan managed to get to Chancery Lane where he found the streets crowded with ambulances, fire engines, police cars and the media. His daughter was in a state of shock and could not talk to reporters. "There was a smell of burning and banging from her carriage. She thought about getting off, then all of a sudden the lights went out and the carriages were filling up with smoke," he said. "There was a lot of panic – they couldn't get the doors open. Eventually they managed to prise one of them open and get out. She is very distressed."

Several passengers said they had registered an unsettling clanking sound – one described it as "a hard grinding noise" – before the derailment.

The Central Line is one of the busiest on the Tube, carrying passengers between the City and the shopping centres of Oxford Street and Bond Street. Modern trains, built in 1992, carry more than 1,000 passengers each and run at intervals as short as three minutes during the peak hours.

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