Evacuation mulled as London prepares for terror drill
Posted Sun Sep 7, 2003 10:27am AEST
British police will stage a mock attack on an underground train in the heart of London on Sunday (local time), to prepare for what Britain’s top policeman has said is an almost inevitable strike on Washington’s closest ally.
Police, firefighters and ambulance staff will rush to the assistance of panic-stricken “passengers” at Bank station beneath the Bank of England while “victims of the chemical strike” will be decontaminated in tents set up in the street above.
British newspaper The Sunday Times said there were secret plans to evacuate parts of the city in the event of a real threat.
Quoting what it said were leaked government documents, the newspaper said the evacuation plan – “Operation Sassoon”, would see Londoners ferried to “rest and reception areas” in the countryside surrounding the city.
The operation could take place after an attack or simply after “high-level intelligence” showing an attack was imminent.
It listed Heathrow airport, the business districts of Canary Wharf and the City of London, and the area around Parliament as possible targets.
Britain’s top police officer Sir John Stevens said last week Britain faced a threat from suicide bombers and his London force was on its “highest level of alert” for any attack.
With the second anniversary of the September 11 attacks on the United States on Thursday, London as Washington’s top ally in the Iraq war is considered a prime target.
In Sunday’s drill, which will last several hours, fire crews will test new equipment for decontaminating the public and for identifying chemical weapons, although the chemical threat itself will remain strictly theoretical.
There has never been a suicide bombing in Britain, but anti-terror police have arrested more than 300 people since the September 11 attacks, with deadly ricin poison found in a London flat.