A summer's night out in London turns to horror


London (AFP)

Just minutes before Saturday's terror attack in London, pubs were crammed with revellers enjoying a balmy summer night out in a trendy part of the city, many of them watching the Champions League final on big screens.

And then terror struck yet again at London's heart as a van smashed into pedestrians and a stabbing rampage saw more bloodshed on the streets of the British capital.

People enjoying their evening out near the River Thames told of how their night became a nightmare in seconds as they witnessed the attack unfold.

First, a van veered wildly into pedestrians crossing London Bridge, with those who managed to avoid the attack rushing to aid those who were hit.

Then the stabbing spree began in the popular Borough district on the south side of the bridge.

Taxi driver Chris told LBC radio he saw men brandishing long knives emerging from the van.

"Three men got out with long blades, 12 inches (30 centimetres) long and went randomly along Borough High Street stabbing people."

Police held people inside bars and restaurants for their own safety as police cars screamed past.

They were later asked to leave with their hands on their heads.

Frightened people were led away as police officers screamed at them to run. Many were in tears, with friends supporting each other along the road.

Roads were closed off and stations evacuated as police shouted at people to flee the scene.

A photograph showed three men lying on the ground in Borough, apparently having been shot by police.

One of them appeared to be wearing combat trousers with what looked like a belt with canisters attached to it.

Scotland Yard police headquarters confirmed that armed officers attended the Borough stabbings and shots were fired.

- Van deliberately swerving -

The white van injured several people on London Bridge as it deliberately swerved into groups of people at speed, said eyewitnesses.

"I saw this van going left and right, left and right, trying to catch as many people as he could," Alessandro told BBC radio.

"There were five or six people that we tried to help, they were young people."

Mark, another witness, was in the centre of London Bridge, taking pictures of Tower Bridge downstream.

"I could see the van coming up the road. It was swerving from side to side. I could see it hitting people.

"It hit one person about 20 foot (six metres) in the air. Poor girl. I just saw her bounce up in the air.

"There must have been about five or six people on the ground, they must have been seriously injured.

"About five or 10 minutes later, I heard a lot of rapid-fire gunshots."

London resident Dee, 26, said she was sure it was a terror attack as the van careered southwards over London Bridge.

"And then there was a man with a knife, he was running, he came down the stairs and went to a bar," she told AFP.

Several other witnesses reported multiple men armed with knives, lashing out at victims at random.

- Blood on chef's uniform -

Video clips circulating on social media showed police officers rushing into bars and restaurants to instruct customers to get under the tables.

Gerard Kavanar, 46, who lives by Tower Bridge, told AFP: "There was lot of chefs in white costumes, one had blood on his shoulder. He told me he was a Romanian chef and that three people attacked his restaurant with a machete and knife.

"He had a video on his phone and he showed me a small piece. You could see an older guy lying on the floor with blood around him."

Police boats scanned the Thames in the dark while helicopters circled overhead and streets were cordoned off, AFP reporters said.

An emergency response helicopter landed on London Bridge, while emergency service workers rushed people on trolleys to waiting ambulances.

Members of the public were seen leaving the scene wrapped in foil emergency blankets while armed police patrolled the scene.

Debris could be seen on the bridge where people had fled the scene.

Jacob Chick, 23, a nightclub security worker who lives nearby, said he saw a convoy of ambulances.

"It's frustrating how these kind of things are becoming more frequent," he told AFP.