Sergeant Steve Betts of the British Transport police was one of the first rescuers to reach the Piccadilly line train between King's Cross and Russell Square on Thursday. This is his harrowing account:
It was pitch black and we had torches. The tunnel where the train was was about 150 metres down the track round a corner and there were still a few wounded coming towards us as we approached. As I walked down the track, I heard someone cry out for help but I could not see them. I called out back and looked around but it was very smoky and dusty and they did not answer.
I got into the train and it was quite obvious that this was something horrendous. There were people with limbs missing, huge open wounds with their organs showing and people were crying out and moaning and asking for help.
I thought, this is the worst thing I have ever seen. I am not very good in enclosed spaces at the best of times and we had to climb over bodies and body parts to try to help people and see who was still alive. I thought this is the end of the world, right here in this carriage, but you have to do your job.
I found a man and his leg had been blown off below the knee, there was another body next to him. There was also what I thought was a pile of clothes but as I passed to try and get to the man, it moaned and asked me for help. It was a woman. She had all her limbs blown off. I think she died on the concourse.
We had not yet got into the carriage where the bomb had exploded but we had to get in there to make sure no one else was alive. That was a scene I cannot describe.
The roof had collapsed and we had to almost crawl in. There were body parts everywhere, there was not one bit as far as I could see that was not covered with organs or blood or bits of body. I was squashed in by chairs and dead bodies as we searched for anyone alive. I could not help standing on things but I had to carry on and do my job. It was like collecting a lot of shop dummies and then cutting them up, pouring black paint over them, and filling the carriage.
After a couple of hours, I came up. The station was pretty quiet by now but someone asked me for directions which made me smile and that made me feel more human. But, as I stood there I felt lonelier than I thought was possible, I just wanted to see a friend or somebody new and give them a hug.
Recovery work in Tube ‘hell on earth' David Leppard and Lois Rogers THE AFTERMATH
POLICE recovery experts were yesterday conducting the grim task of extracting bodies from the Piccadilly line carriage that was blown apart in Thursday's terror attack.
Police officers said they were battling against "awful" conditions in a narrow, deep tunnel described by rescuers as "hell on earth". The single-bore tunnel became so hot at one point early yesterday morning that forensic teams and body recovery specialists halted the operation temporarily.
The bomb on the Piccadilly line, which is 30m below street level, caused the most devastation out of the three Underground bombs because of the enclosed space. Police say it could be up to two weeks before all the bodies are formally identified.
The site has become the main focus of the police operation because of the problems in recovering the dead. Witnesses at the scene said it appeared at least one body was brought to the surface yesterday afternoon.
The stretch of tunnel — beneath King's Cross — has been sealed to preserve the evidence and as a result temperatures have soared to up to 60C. At about 1am yesterday the tunnel became so hot that work was halted for part of the night. Refrigeration units have been delivered to the scene to store the bodies.
Officers also have to contend with rats, a mixture of potentially hazardous gases and the stench of decaying bodies.
Dr Paul Knapman, the Westminster coroner, will oversee the formal identification of the victims. It will be a difficult and time-consuming task because many of the corpses were very badly disfigured in the blast.
Police said the remains of bodies would be subjected to fingerprint, DNA and dental record analysis. A police source said that no bodies had yet been formally identified.
Detective Superintendent Jim Dickie, who will assist Knapman, said: "Most of the victims have suffered extensive trauma. There are body parts as well as torsos to be recovered. There are large numbers of people in hospital with body parts blown off, which creates additional difficulties in the identification process."
Identification will also include teams going into the homes of suspected victims to remove DNA from toothbrushes. Clothing and jewellery will also be used to help to identify those who died.
Police said yesterday that the Identification Commission, which deals with mass casualties from disasters, will meet at an undisclosed military site in central London where a temporary mortuary has been set up.
Yesterday, it received 13 bodies from the bus bomb at Tavistock Square.
The bodies from the other three sites would be taken there "over the coming hours and days", police said.