ONE PERSON died and at least 40 were injured yesterday as an IRA bomb exploded in the heart of the City of London, sending a plume of black smoke high over the capital.
The blast, which caused an estimated pounds 1bn of damage, shook buildings throughout the City and was heard up to six miles away.
And late last night there were two further explosions in the capital - in Judd Street, near King's Cross station, and at Manor House station, in north London. The Fire Brigade was in attendance at both incidents.
Witnesses said a car was in flames after the blast in Judd Street.
Hospitals across London were on standby early today, but there were no initial reports of casualties.
The earlier City bomb, hidden in the back of a tipper truck, was described by Commander David Tucker, head of the anti-terrorist squad, as home-made with about a ton of fertiliser, similar to the one that devastated the Baltic Exchange a year ago, killing three people.
The injured yesterday included security guards, maintenance workers and passers-by, most of them cut by flying glass when the bomb exploded at 10.25am in Bishopsgate, near the Hongkong and Shanghai Bank and the 52- storey NatWest Tower.
The dead man was found under rubble during a five-hour search of the devastated area. The rescue services worked until late last night searching the debris and damaged buildings for more bodies. He was not immediately identified, but a News of the World photographer, Edward Henty, 34, had been reported missing after being in the area. A spokesman for the paper said last night that it believed he was dead. Mr Henty is married with two young children.
Owen Kelly, the City of London police commissioner, said more people could be trapped in the wreckage and several are still missing. There were unconfirmed reports that office workers were trapped in the basement of a building in Bishopsgate. Mr Kelly said he was not entirely surprised by the blast. It had 'always been a possibility that the terrorists would return'.
One man lost his fingers, another's lung collapsed, but most escaped with minor injuries, mainly cuts.
The IRA did not immediately claim responsibility but senior police officers had no doubt that it was behind the explosion.
Damage to property was enormous. Repair work from last year's Baltic Exchange explosion had just been completed when the same City banks were wrecked again yesterday. Two churches and an Underground station were badly damaged and the streets were covered in glass as scores of shops and offices had their windows blown out. Liverpool Street station is expected to remain closed until later this week.
The blast left a crater of 12 square metres in the street. Workers hiding in the basement of the Hongkong building when the bomb detonated said their offices were wrecked.
Mike Oughton, 32, a communications engineer for the bank, said ceilings had collapsed, cars were crushed and doors were ripped from their hinges. 'When the bomb went off everything caved in. I've never seen anything like it. They might as well pull it down now. It's pointless trying to rebuild it,' he said.
Police kept workers in the NatWest Tower and other offices for several hours fearing a follow- up explosion and because of the danger of injury from glass falling from unstable buildings. Staff at the Bank of England were trapped for five hours.
Property company executives had already been in touch with the corporation with offers of alternative office accommodation. Mr Cassidy said temporary rehousing would be found for businesses needing it.
The Department of Trade and Industry, which is pushing legislation through Parliament to provide government backing for insurance claims from the victims of bomb attacks, said that legitimate requests for help from companies affected by yesterday's blast would be honoured, even though the Bill was not yet law.
The Association of British Insurers said that, without state cover, its members would be 'extremely exposed' by the cost of the blast.
Insurance assessors estimated that the explosion was one of the most expensive in the history of the IRA campaign. Nicholas Balcombe, chief executive of the Balcombe's Group of assessors, said: 'We're certainly looking at in excess of pounds 1bn in damage. There is damage to the structure. There is business interruption and losses involved in getting people back to work.'
Det Supt John White of the City of London Police said he had little doubt that the attack was the work of the IRA. 'Why?' he asked. 'Why carry out such a heinous attack on innocent people?'
Police received eight telephone calls from people giving recognised IRA coded warnings that a blue tipper truck in Bishopsgate had been loaded with a bomb. The truck was first seen in Bishopsgate at 9am and was under police surveillance when the first warning was made to Sky Television at 9.17am. Police confirmed that there had been a security operation in the area on Friday night, but refused to give details.
The bombing shows the terrorists' willingness to hit soft economic targets, and that they have ignored the condemnation which followed the murder of two children in Warrington on 20 March. On 26 February three bombs exploded at a gas works in Warrington. And last Friday a bomb damaged an oil tank at the Esso terminal at Riverside, Tyne and Wear.
Police appealed for anyone who saw the dark blue Iveco/Ford tipper truck, registration number G430 OVT or G430 DVT, in Bishopsgate to telephone 0800 789 321.
(Photographs and map omitted)
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