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TERROR STRIKES LONDON
"We do not want to alarm the public, but we want everyone to be alert and vigilant."
Gov. Linda Lingle
After yesterday's London attack
Safe riding tips
Oahu Civil Defense has released tips for city bus passengers following yesterday's mass transit bombings in London. They include:
» Be informed and have a plan for action when riding public transportation.
The threat applies only to buses in Hawaii, not airports or harbors.
"We do not want to alarm the public, but we want everyone to be alert and vigilant," said Gov. Linda Lingle, who added that the islands are under no specific threat. She said the state was taking action as recommended by the federal government.
State Adjutant Gen. Robert Lee noted: "It's because of the tactics of the terrorists. They've shown that they can do multiple attacks. Frankly, we just want to make sure that part of their plan is not a multiple-country attack."
The heightened alert also extends to private bus companies, including tour and school buses. Lee said the biggest concern is security at bus storage yards, where buses sit empty for hours or overnight with little surveillance.
"The security folks are there to make sure nobody slips a package (in a bus)," Lee said.
Police officers will also monitor the city bus system's dispatch line and respond to any calls regarding suspect packages or passengers.
Bus employees also are being asked to follow recommended enhanced security measures. This includes checking trash containers and reporting suspicious packages, backpacks, briefcases and other materials in and around bus facilities, said Roger Morton, senior vice president and director of operations for Oahu Transit Services Inc., which operates TheBus and provides about 250,000 rides a day.
Officials did not release the number of added police officers being used and could not say how long the alert level is expected to last. A cost estimate for the heightened alert was not immediately available, but Lee said the state has set aside $250,000.
Public bus companies are also beefing up security on the neighbor islands.
Maui County Transportation Director Kyle Ginoza told bus contractors yesterday to keep watch for suspicious packages.
On the Big Island, police are making periodic checks of bus terminals but are not stationing officers at those points, police Maj. Sam Thomas said. They are also taking "additional precautions," but Thomas declined to elaborate. Drivers of county and tour buses have also been told to be on alert, he said.
"A lot of it is common sense," he said. "We're asking the public to be vigilant ... (and) be on the lookout for any suspicious unattended article."
The Kauai bus system, which runs Monday through Saturday, will rely on bus drivers for the extra security.
Kauai Mayor Bryan Baptiste said drivers will inspect their buses before and after each run and "are on the lookout for unattended packages and bags."
Also, Kauai police will make periodic checks of bus facilities.
The last time Lingle elevated Hawaii's threat level to orange was in December 2003, after the Department of Homeland Security did so because of a fear of attacks during the holiday season.
The threat level advisory system uses colors to show the likelihood of a terrorist attack: green for a low risk, blue for a general risk, yellow if the risk is significant, orange for a high risk and red if the risk of an attack on the nation is severe.
The Hawaii system has an additional level, black, in the case of a terrorist attack only on the state.
LONDON » The first bomb went off at 8:51 a.m., on a London Underground train just outside the financial district. Five minutes later another train exploded, then another, and finally a crowded red double-decker bus. In 56 minutes a city fresh from a night of Olympic celebrations was enveloped in eerie, blood-soaked quiet.
Terror had struck the British capital at the start of a busy workday, just as it had a year ago in Madrid and in 2001 in New York and Washington.
London police said they could confirm at least 37 people had been killed and 700 injured yesterday in the worst attack on London since the blitz in World War II.
French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy said the death toll was 50, citing a conversation with his British counterpart. Australian Prime Minister John Howard said today the toll was 52; he did not disclose the source of his information.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair blamed Islamic extremists and said the bombings were designed to coincide with the opening in Scotland of a G-8 summit of the world's most powerful leaders. Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said the bombings, which came the day after London won the bid to host the 2012 Olympics, have the "hallmarks of an al-Qaida-related attack."
Trapped passengers in the Underground railway threw themselves on the floor, some sobbing. As subway cars quickly filled with smoke, people used their umbrellas to try to break the windows so that they could get air. Passengers emerged from the Underground covered with blood and soot. On the street, in a light rain, buses ferried the wounded, and medics used a hotel as a hospital.
"I didn't hear anything, just a flash of light, people screaming, no thoughts of what it was. I just had to get out of the train," said subway passenger Chris Randall, 28, who was hospitalized with cuts and burns to his face, legs and hands.
"It was chaos," said Gary Lewis, 32, evacuated from a subway train at King's Cross station. "The one haunting image was someone whose face was totally black (with soot) and pouring with blood."
It was the attack that Britain had long feared, following al-Qaida's Sept. 11, 2001, strikes in New York and Washington and Britain's subsequent alliance with U.S. forces in Afghanistan and Iraq. Yesterday's explosions also recalled the March 11, 2004, terrorist bombs that killed 191 people on four commuter trains in Madrid, at a time when Spain was part of the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq.
Police were investigating whether suicide bombers were involved, and said they could not confirm the authenticity of a claim of responsibility from a group calling itself "The Secret Organization of al-Qaida in Europe." The group said the blasts were in retaliation for Britain's involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In Washington a senior counterterrorism official said the claim is considered "potentially very credible" because it appeared on a Web site that has been used in the past for extremist postings, the message appeared soon after the attacks and does not appear hurried or rushed.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information, also said British authorities identified suspicious packages yesterday and detonated them in controlled explosions. It is not yet clear whether the contents of those packages were dangerous or benign.
The attack on London brought out a steeliness that recalled Britain under the blitz of German bombers in World War II, when many Londoners sought refuge in the Underground, site of yesterday's carnage.
As Wednesday's jubilation at winning the Olympics gave way to the terrible shock of yesterday's attacks, a shaken Blair rushed back to the capital. He then delivered an almost Churchillian appeal for unity, saying in a televised address that it was "a very sad day for the British people, but we will hold true to the British way of life." He praised the "stoicism and resilience of the British people."
Both were in evidence across the city as volunteers helped the walking wounded from blast sites, commuters lent their phones so strangers could call home and thousands faced long lines for homeward-bound buses or even longer walks without complaint.
"As Brits we'll carry on -- it doesn't scare us at all," said tour guide Michael Cahill, 37. "Look, loads of people are walking down the streets. It's Great Britain -- not called 'Great' for nothing."