Deputy Chief Constable Adrian Hanstock of the British Transport Police makes a statement to the media after an incident at Parsons Green underground station in London, Britain, September 15, 2017. Picture: REUTERS/LUKE MACGREGOR
Deputy Chief Constable Adrian Hanstock of the British Transport Police makes a statement to the media after an incident at Parsons Green underground station in London, Britain, September 15, 2017. Picture: REUTERS/LUKE MACGREGOR

At least 18 people were injured when a suspected terrorist set off an improvised explosive device on a London subway train at rush-hour. It is the fifth attack in the capital this year.

Police appealed for photos and information, and had no word on the whereabouts of the perpetrator as a manhunt appeared to be under way. Images of a small fire in a white bucket with protruding wires were broadcast by Sky News, which said the device had probably failed to detonate fully.

Parsons Green underground station in west London was cordoned off as counter-terrorism police investigated, the Metropolitan Police said in a statement. A number of people were injured, the Met said. The Press Association said passengers suffered facial burns and some were hurt in a stampede. Police gave no word of the whereabouts of the suspected perpetrator.

“My thoughts are with those injured at Parsons Green and emergency services who are responding bravely to this terrorist incident,” Prime Minister Theresa May said on Twitter. May will chair an emergency meeting of officials later on Friday.

“Explosion on Parsons Green District Line train. Fireball flew down carriage and we just jumped out open door,” said Twitter user @Rrigs, who posted pictures of a white bucket smouldering on the train. The bucket looked like the type used by builders and there appeared to be cables coming out of it.

“We are aware of an incident at Parsons Green tube station. Officers are in attendance,” London’s Metropolitan Police said on Twitter.

Londoners are growing used to terrorism and to the sight of heavily armed police patrolling the transport network. The police have stepped up the number of arrests and on Thursday reported that terrorism-related arrests had risen 68% over the past year.

This attempt comes after a series of attacks this year: assailants with vans and knives attacked passers by on Westminster Bridge and London Bridge in two separate strikes and a van was driven into worshippers outside a mosque in Finsbury Park. A suicide bomber attacked a concert venue in Manchester in May, killing more than 20 people including children and mothers.

The Parsons Green station was closed, as well as an entire section of the District Line where it is located and police urged people to stay away from the area. A reporter at the scene was quoted by the paper as saying that some passengers were “really badly burned” and their “hair was coming off”.

The incident comes after a series of terror attacks that have rocked Britain this year, killing dozens of people and injuring hundreds, putting the capital on high alert.

British Foreign Secretary and former London mayor Boris Johnson appealed for calm. “I’m afraid my information is limited and it really is important not to speculate at the moment,” he told Sky News. “Obviously, everybody should keep calm and go about their lives in a normal way, as normal as they possibly can.”

Passengers described chaotic scenes at the station in a leafy and normally quiet part of west London. “There was panic, lots of people shouting, screaming, lots of screaming,” Richard Aylmer-Hall, a media technology consultant, told the Press Association. “There was a woman on the platform who said she had seen a bag, a flash and a bang, so obviously something had gone off,” he said, adding that “some people got pushed over and trampled on. “I saw two women being treated by ambulance crews.”

BBC correspondent Riz Lateef, who was on her way to work, said there was “panic as people rushed from the train, hearing what appeared to be an explosion. “People were left with cuts and grazes from trying to flee the scene. There was lots of panic.”

One passenger, named only as Lucas, told BBC 5 Live radio: “I heard a really loud explosion. I saw people with minor injuries, burnings to the face, arms, legs, multiple casualties.”

Another witness, Sham, told the radio station he had seen a man with blood all over his face. “There were a lot of people limping and covered in blood.”

Emergency services said they were called at about 8.20am.

Natasha Wills, assistant director of operations at London Ambulance Service said: “Our initial priority is to assess the level and nature of injuries”, saying the ambulance service had sent “multiple resources” to the station, including a hazardous area response team.

Bloomberg, AFP

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