Explosions Rock London Transit System

Panic gripped the city of London following a series of explosions that destroyed trains in the London Underground and blew the top off one of the city's famed double-decker buses during the morning rush hour.

Victims and bystanders in the underground transportation system reported hearing explosions and said they were showered by broken glass and soot as the lights in the tunnels, which run far below the city, went out. There is no final report of fatalities, but there are at least 33 confirmed deaths, and as many as 1,000 people suffered injuries that range from potentially fatal to bruises and cuts.

At a hastily called press conference at the G-8 Summit in Scotland this morning, Prime Minister Tony Blair, noted the timing of the attacks.

"Just as it is reasonably clear that this is a terrorist attack or a series of terrorist attacks, it is also reasonably clear that it is designed and aimed to coincide with the opening of the G-8," said Blair, who announced he would leave the G-8 Summit temporarily to return to London to assess the damage.

European governments responded quickly, with Italy, France and Spain reportedly stepping up security. Moscow has reportedly ordered increased security in the city's subway system, and Singapore increased border security and added additional police patrols.

Homeland Defense Secretary Michael Chertoff said the U.S. government has been closely monitoring the bombings in London, adding, "Our sympathies and condolences go to the victims of this incident and the people of London."

His department has been in direct communication with officials at the state and local level and with public and private sector transportation officials. "We have asked them for increased vigilance and additional security measures for major transit systems," said Chertoff. In fact, security – including explosive-sniffing dogs – was noticeably stepped up at Washington D.C.'s Metropolitan Transit Authority stations.

In a statement, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority said, "In response to events in London, the Metro transit police will increase their presence in and around the Metro transit system. We ask customers to please be alert and report any unusual activity or suspicious packages."

The Transit Authority, which actively encourages passengers and employees to be vigilant about suspicious activity and unattended packages, recently purchased 190 blast-mitigating trash receptacles.

In Chicago, security measures were increased on buses and trains, and Chicago Transit Authority spokeswoman Kimberly Myles said the transit authority would ask passengers to be aware of their surroundings and alert workers about suspicious packages.

In New York, transit authorities said they were not increasing security above the current level, but would continue to conduct searches of trains before they leave the terminals and ask passengers to be mindful of unattended packages.

"We do not have any specific intelligence indicating this type of attack is planned in the United States," said Chertoff, "but we are constantly evaluating both intelligence and our protective measures and will take whatever actions are necessary."

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