A suspected bomb blast inside a train in the St. Petersburg Metro killed ten passengers and injured dozens of others. The entire Metro system was shut down as bomb squads and rescuers responded to the emergency.
The explosion happened as the train was travelling between the stations Tekhnologichesky Institut and Sennaya Ploshchad of the St. Petersburg Metro, the National Antiterrorism Committee (NAC) confirmed.
Terrorism probe has been launched over the blast by Russia’s Investigative Committee.
Health Minister Veronika Skvortsova said there were 47 victims of the blast and put the number of fatalities at 10. She said that the six people being treated in St. Petersburg hospitals for injuries remain in critical condition.
The minister added that among the victims was a 15-year-old girl, who has burns and a head injury.
Images posted on social media show bodies lying next to the damaged car, with blood apparently spilt on a bench.
According to health officials, the victims being treated in hospitals vary in age from teenagers to as old as 70. They are suffering from burns, blunt head traumas, shrapnel injuries and lung damage.
Russia’s Investigative Committee praised the driver of the train for not trying to stop in the tunnel after the explosion.
“He acted right in the circumstances. The explosion happened in the tunnel between stations, but the driver took the right decision and brought it to the next station, which allowed evacuation and help to the injured to start at once. This may have prevented casualties,” the committee said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin commented that “The causes of this event have not been determined yet, so it’s too early to talk about [possible causes]. The investigation will show. Certainly, we will consider all possibilities: common, criminal, but first of all of a terrorist nature.”
All Metro stations are closed to passengers. Commuters were evacuated from the subway within about an hour of the first reports of the blast coming in.
An undetonated improvised explosive device (IED) was discovered by investigators at the Ploshchad Vosstaniya Station and defused by specialists, the NAC reported. It rejected media reports which claimed that more than one explosion occurred, saying no evidence supporting this was found.
Alleged photos of the IED surfaced on social media. They show a medium-sized leather bag, which apparently held a container filled with explosives, with ball bearings wrapped around it.
Facebook has activated its Safety Check feature for users in St Petersburg. It allows people to let friends and family know that they are OK during a disaster or dangerous situation.
The St. Petersburg city authorities declared three days of mourning for the victims of the Metro explosion.
A St. Petersburg resident told RT that he “was going to Mayakovskaya station [not far from Sennaya Square, the station that was hit] when the alarm went on and the security guards started to block all the entrances. They just told people to get away from the area and suggested not using the Metro today.”
According to the resident, who identified himself as Alex, “there was a bit of panic in the eyes of the people,” both passengers and subway staff alike.
“As there was an announcement that all the stations will be closed due to technical reasons,” people understood that something was wrong and rushed to the exits, he said.
Alex also recalled that he saw ambulances and police cars arriving at the station.
Putin: Terrorism among causes considered for St. Petersburg Metro blast
All possible causes for the explosion in the St. Petersburg Metro are being considered, including those linked to terrorism, Russian President Vladimir Putin said.
“The causes of this event have not been determined yet, so it’s too early to talk about [possible causes]. The investigation will show. Certainly, we will consider all variants, common, criminal, first of all, of a terrorist nature,” he said.
Vladimir Putin is currently in St. Petersburg taking part in the All-Russia People’s Front media forum that opened on April 1.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has denied earlier media speculation that President Putin was due to pass by the Sennaya Metro station around the time of the blast.
The explosion happened between the Sennaya Ploshchad station and Tekhnologichesky Institut at around 2:40pm local time, Russia’s National Anti-Terrorism Committee said.
The blast was caused by an unidentified explosive device, officials announced, adding that all metro stations in St. Petersburg have been closed.
The metro is “basically” fully evacuated, according to Russia’s National Anti-Terrorism Committee.
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