The Bishopsgate Bomb: Workers sift through the debris in a scene of silent devastation: Tim Kelsey witnessed a sense of disbelief and shock when he went to the site of the blast in the City

THEY found the body of Edward Henty, a photographer working for the News of the World, under rubble at the front of the Hongkong and Shanghai Bank. And now there were dozens of people picking over the debris in the shadow of the crushed concrete skeleton of the tower block.

Some were looking for clues that might lead them to his murderers; others making a start on clearing up. Desolation inspires silence; there was little human noise. There was the wheezing of emergency generators, and the grinding of excavators. Above everything, the shop alarm bells whined.

Detective Superintendent John White kept on saying: 'As far as I know. . . as far as I know everybody else has been accounted for.' There had been several people missing shortly after the explosion. Behind him officers were discussing their difficult progress through the buildings devastated by the IRA bomb on Saturday morning. By yesterday afternoon, they had still not gained access to all of them.

One estate agency reckoned that nearly 2 million sq ft of office space - there are 52 million sq ft in the whole of the City - has been affected. While I was waiting for an escort into Bishopsgate, where the IRA had left its bomb, a man passed by on his way out: 'It's unbelievable, simply unbelievable,' he said.

It was. Behind the blue and white police tape at the north end of Bishopsgate, people went about their business. The traffic was a little heavier than it might otherwise have been. But the police had sealed off about a quarter of the City's square mile, and what Sunday traffic there was choked on roads around the exclusion zone. The sightseers started to arrive in the early afternoon.

Beyond the police tape, there was chaos. Out of the windows of the Hongkong and Shanghai Bank building, stripped of all its glossy architectural conceit, venetian blinds dangled like streamers. Across the road, the National Bank of Abu Dhabi had been devastated. Several floors up, some of the exterior office walls had been torn away. Inside, desks, chairs and typewriters had been thrown around, as if in a violent fight. In offices about 150 yards from the explosion, metal filing cabinets had been ripped open. The damage extended for at least 100 yards beyond that.

In the rubbish of glass, clothing and metal strewn along the road and pavement below, there were some bedraggled pot plants and shattered pots. Det Supt White said: 'It's still very dangerous, there is a lot of glass still hanging in the windows and it's falling.' Workmen were manhandling a huge fractured splinter of glass on to the back of a lorry.

The epicentre of the blast was in the road outside the Church of St Ethelburga-the- Virgin, 50 yards south of the Bank of Abu Dhabi. The church, thought to date from the 13th century, was the smallest in the City. Inside hung the painting, Christ Healing Blind Bartimaeus, a work attributed to the 16th-century Flemish artist Van Aelst. It had 17th- century windows which had survived the Great Fire of London. But where the church stood there is now only a pile of masonry next to a 30-ft crater.

The Dean of the City, Prebendary Alan Tanner, said last night: 'A church of that period would have been built without foundations. It would have no chance . . .'

Further to the north, St Botolph's without Bishopsgate, where John Keats was christened, survives. In the adjacent gardens, daffodils were torn from the soil by the blast and thrown against its walls. But it has only lost some window panes. Outside, there is a board advertising a Eucharist at 11am. St Botolph's was damaged during the Blitz. There has been nothing since to compare with the devastation of this blast. The area affected by the bombing of the Baltic Exchange last year was smaller, though the loss of life - three killed - was higher.

The massive police presence has deterred any breakdown in civil order. A number of shops have no windows or protection. The autobank machine at a branch of Barclays has been blown out of the wall. But Det Sup White confirmed that there had been no looting. Shortly after he said that, one workman thoughtfully picked up a shoe from the pavement and replaced it on its pedestal in the window of a shoe shop.

The police do not know how long it will take before Bishopsgate will be reopened. Some buildings close to the epicentre may have to be demolished. But they are optimistic that neighbouring areas will be cleared quickly.

A short walk from Bishopsgate, at St Paul's Cathedral, the Dean, the Very Rev Eric Evans, made this point in his sermon: 'This great City has faced plague, pestilence, fire and the Blitz and it has won through. It will do so again and the IRA have no more hope of killing the spirit of London and its people than Hitler did.'

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Technical Author / Multimedia Writer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This recognized leader in providing software s...

Recruitment Genius: Clinical Lead / RGN

£40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: IT Sales Consultant

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...

Recruitment Genius: Works Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent