An explosion in a restroom caused extensive damage at the Stock Exchange today, 40 minutes after a telephone warning of an Irish Republican Army bomb, police said. No injuries were reported.
City of London police said the 23-story building in the heart of London’s financial district was evacuated before the blast at 8:49 a.m.
The explosion tore a hole about 20 feet high and seven feet wide in the modern concrete building, about 10 feet above ground level facing Old Broad Street. Glass and hunks of concrete littered the street.
Hugh Moore, commander of City of London Police, said warnings were telephoned to his department, the exchange and to Reuters news agency. George Churchill-Coleman, commander of Scotland Yard’s anti-terrorist unit, said there were eight warning calls in all.
The bomb, which contained 5 to 10 pounds of high explosives, was in a men’s restroom near the visitors’ gallery, Churchill-Coleman said. Asked whether the IRA was responsible, he told reporters, “That’s a reasonable assumption.”
Churchill-Coleman said the visitors’ gallery had not opened at the time of the explosion. He said it is not known when the device was planted.
“People would have been killed if they had been in the building at the time,” Moore said.
A uniformed guard normally searches bags and parcels carried by visitors before they enter the gallery, which accommodates up to 100 people.
The National Westminster bank, near the exchange, was cordoned off and searched after another bomb warning, police said. The Royal Bank of Scotland building across from the exchange was also evacuated.
Press Assn., Britain’s domestic news agency, reported that one caller who telephoned a warning said: “This is the IRA. The bomb is due to go off in half an hour at the Stock Exchange.”
“I am horrified that any group would take the risk of so many people’s lives in a public building,” said Andrew Hugh Smith, chairman of the Stock Exchange. “The timing of the bomb and the warning--they all could have gone very wrong.”
The exchange’s computerized stock trading system was not interrupted, but options trading was suspended. Smith said options trading will resume Monday. He said about 600 people normally work on the options floor.
Share prices rose marginally following the explosion.
Sharon Reilly, who was among those evacuated from the exchange, said: “There wasn’t panic. People were in high spirits, curious. They just thought it was a fire.”