Panic as attack rocks Britain’s seat of power

22/03/2017 - A member of the public is treated by EMS near Wesminster Bridge and the House of Parliament in London, England. Picture: Carl Court/Getty Images
22/03/2017 – A member of the public is treated by EMS near Wesminster Bridge and the House of Parliament in London, England. Picture: Carl Court/Getty Images

Mayhem in Westminster after deadly rampage

Britain’s political heart in lockdown, shaken MPs evacuated from parliament, blood on the road and tourists running – Westminster was in chaos yesterday as a deadly attack struck the capital.

Witnesses spoke of their shock as a car mowed down pedestrians on Westminster Bridge before crashing into railings outside the Houses of Parliament, where a man leapt out with a knife and stabbed a police officer.

Gunfire rang out as armed police fired on the attacker, who later died after a bloody rampage which killed four people, including the police officer, and wounded at least 20 others.

MP Mary Creagh, who was confronted by crowds and armed guards on her way to parliament, spoke of a real sense of panic.

“I was met by about 40 people running towards me saying: ‘Get back, get back, there’s been a shooting’,” she said.

Police cars and ambulances flooded the area of the attack — one of several guarded entrances to the Houses of Parliament, a warren of rooms and staircases, which was later evacuated. “It was very, very frightening,” Creagh said. MP Damian Collins said he heard shouts and gunshots before being told by police to get on the ground, along with about 30 other MPs, where they waited for a minute before being told to go to their offices in Portcullis House.

“They [the police] were very quick, very professional and very brave. They did what they are there for, to protect the people who work in the Palace of Westminster,” Collins said.

Police did not identify the other two people killed in the attack, one of whom was reportedly a woman, and said at least 20 others were wounded, among them three police officers.

One injured woman was pulled from the River Thames, and three French schoolchildren were also hurt, officials in Paris said.

A junior doctor said they were treating catastrophic injuries.

Kirsten Hurrell, 70, said she heard a car crashing into fencing surrounding parliament and initially thought there had been an accident.

“I heard a couple of shots, which I now know were gunshots, so I began to realise it was something a little more serious,” she said.

Richard Jones, a 31-year-old bar manager who reached the scene just after the attack, said he saw police cars and ambulances arriving.

“After a few seconds, a furtehr 25 police officers in full tactical gear with helmets and body armour stormed into the Houses of Parliament,” he said.

“Then they started to evacuate the MPs in black unmarked police cars.”

Also seen driving away was Prime Minister Theresa May.

Tourists who usually flock to the area for a glimpse of London’s iconic Big Ben clock tower looked on as heavily armed police officers cordoned off the roads.

Buses on Westminster Bridge were evacuated and the London Eye was also eventually emptied of visitors. Jack Hutchinson, a 16-year-old American, said he spent three hours stranded on the Eye with his parents.

Once the carriage moved, he looked down and saw three bodies lying on the ground, and a whole lot of police. “It was pretty terrifying,” he said.

-AFP

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