LONDON ― At least 29 people were injured after a bomb exploded in a West London Underground station during rush hour on Friday, causing a fire inside a train and a stampede of panicking commuters.
The blast at the Parsons Green Tube stop was caused by an improvised explosive device, Assistant Police Commissioner Mark Rowley said. Police said they were investigating the incident as terrorism. The self-described Islamic State later claimed the attack was carried out by an affiliate.
British Prime Minister Theresa May announced that the United Kingdom’s terror threat level has been raised from “severe” to “critical” ― the highest possible level ― in light of the attack.
Authorities identified a suspect thanks to video footage Friday afternoon, multiple news outlets reported.
London residents shared photos of the area, with one post showing a bag on fire inside a train car. Several witnesses reported seeing injuries, and a Metro reporter said some people were badly burned. A BBC journalist said she saw a woman taken in ambulance with burns “top to toe.”
One traveler, Sylvain Pennec, told The Guardian, “I heard a boom, and when I looked, there were flames all around.”
Police, firefighters and medical services arrived at the station minutes after the incident was reported around 8:20 a.m. local time. The London Ambulance Service said several people were taken to the hospital, most with burns, but that none appeared to be in serious or life-threatening condition. Three others went to the hospital voluntarily, health officials said.
Witnesses described a stampede of people rushing off the train.
“All of this happened within 15 seconds,” Olaniyi Shokunbia told HuffPost. “It’s just crazy ... [I] saw masses of people running, so I started running myself ... we’re running down stairways, I see people jumping into people ... not caring if they break their bones. I’ve never seen such a thing in my life.”
Emma Steventon, 27, who lives in Parsons Green, told HuffPost UK she heard “lots of screaming” and was told to run, but didn’t know why.
“Everyone just got crushed on the stairs, it was like a human pile-on, stampede, it was horrendous,” she said. “I had a lady underneath me shouting that she was pregnant and the pressure of more and more people falling on top because we couldn’t get down the stairs quickly enough.
“This poor little boy had his face smashed in and he was screaming,” she added. “It was just like, just hold on, just try and breathe, try not to break anything, it was awful.”
Firefighters later led passengers off the train tracks, according to The Associated Press.
Tim and Karalyne Hyde told HuffPost that they were staying at their daughters’ nearby apartment when they saw, out the window, “tons of people running panicked past the flat ... disorderly, chaotic people were confused and being led in one direction by police.”
Train service in West London was partially suspended and the area around the station was closed off with police tape. Some people who live and work inside the cordoned-off area told HuffPost that they were blocked from entering.
Holly Leslie, 19, and her mother Susan opened up their home to offer anyone who had evacuated a restroom or place to charge electronics.
“My uni starts next week,” Leslie said. “If this were a week later, I would have been on that Tube.”
The bombing is the latest in a string of terror attacks in the U.K. this year, including three in the capitol. In July 2005, suicide bombings in the London Underground killed 52 people and injured hundreds more.
British authorities saw 379 terror-related arrests during the year ending in June 2017, a record high for the nation, according to figures released by the Home Office this week.
“Our city utterly condemns the hideous individuals who attempt to use terror to harm us and destroy our way of life,” London Mayor Sadiq Khan said on Friday. “As London has proved again and again, we will never be intimidated or defeated by terrorism.”
The prime minister met with her national security committee on Friday afternoon.
“My thoughts are with those injured at Parsons Green and emergency services who are responding bravely to this terrorist incident,” said May.
Parson’s Green is an upscale residential neighborhood about five miles west of central London.
Karen Wright, who lives in the area, told HuffPost that Friday’s incident is proof that attacks can happen anywhere.
“It wasn’t a matter of if but a matter of when,” she said. “We’re all walking on eggshells.”
View more photos from the scene below.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.