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Thursday, 13 September, 2001, 17:57 GMT 18:57 UK
British death toll nears 100
New York devastation
Relatives and friends have flooded a UK helpline
The confirmed number of UK victims of the terror attacks in the US is already about 100, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has said.

But the final toll is expected to be in the "middle hundreds" and may be higher still, he warned.

A "handful" of Britons were among those who died on board the aircraft used in the terrorist attacks, Downing Street said.

We have to steel ourselves, for the fact that it could be some hundreds

Prime Minister's spokesman

Prime Minister Tony Blair warned a "sombre" emergency cabinet meeting that the US tragedy would "touch every community here" as the British death toll continues to rise.

Scotland Yard's casualty bureau is co-ordinating the effort to trace Britons who are missing following Tuesday's strikes.

It has already contacted the families of many of the confirmed fatalities, Mr Straw said.

Hope fading

And there has been a "massive" number of calls to the Foreign Office's emergency line from relatives still waiting for news.

Mr Straw said given the appalling scenes at the World Trade Center, hope must be fading for many British families.

World Trade Centre on fire
One UK company was holding a 180-delegate conference in the World Trade Center
He stressed the casualty figures were imprecise, adding that the atrocities had created a "fog of war" where it was hard to reunite people with their families.

None of the confirmed casualties has yet been named.

The emergency meeting of cabinet, following a a session of the Government Civil Contingencies Committee, was told that:

  • Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell will supervise efforts to help affected UK families to bring home relatives or organise funerals in the US

  • The government will pay hospital bills for any UK victims without the necessary medical insurance

  • Security will remain tight at UK airports

  • London City Airport will re-open with flight paths temporarily diverted away from central London and the area around Canary Wharf

  • Restrictions on light aircraft and helicopter flights have been lifted

  • Civil contingencies staff will remain on 24-hour duty

    The government's ban on planes flying over central London will be lifted from midnight on Saturday.

    Tony Blair has spoken to Irish counterpart Bertie Ahern and will speak to the Swedish and Spanish premiers on Thursday afternoon.

    The Queen has returned to Buckingham Palace for talks with the US ambassador to London. She will attend a special memorial service at noon in St Paul's Cathedral on Friday.

    US Ambassador to Britain, William Farish, views floral tributes in London
    People have been leaving flowers outside the US embassy in London
    Mr Straw said Nato and the United Nations security council were both resolved to take any necessary action to bring those responsible to account.

    And he said British intelligence services would "intensify" their work with the US authorities in sharing information about the attacks.

    But he warned it would never be possible to gather intelligence on "every evil group in the world."

    Speaking earlier on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Mr Straw denied that the British government was trying to persuade the US to "cool" its response, which has been framed in terms of war.

    There should be, he said, "a determined response, a response that is based on judgments, and of course which is based on evidence".

    Anxious wait

    Parliament is being recalled on Friday. On the same day there will be an EU-wide day of mourning where all member states have been asked to observe three minutes of silence at 1100BST (1000GMT).

    Condolence books have been started in most major cities and towns around the UK, and bunches of flowers from well-wishers are building outside the US embassy in London.

    On Wednesday, Prince Charles said the victims and their families were in his prayers, recalling his own feelings when his uncle Lord Mountbatten was killed by the IRA.

    Friends, colleagues and families of workers from London-based publishing company Risk Waters are still waiting for news.

    The company had been holding an 180-delegate conference on the 106th floor of the World Trade Center when the attacks were launched, and has been unable to establish the whereabouts of any of the attendees since.

    Useful numbers:

  • Risk Waters: 020 7484 9815
  • Foreign Office/Scotland Yard: 020 7008 0000
  • US Embassy in London: 0207 499 9000
  • Police terrorism hotline (for businesses): 0800 789 321

    The BBC's Sophie Hutchinson
    "Grim times for the City"
    The BBC's Richard Bilton
    "At Downing Street, the flags were at half-mast"
    Foreign Secretary Jack Straw
    "The number of confirmed British deaths is now approaching 100"
    See also:

    13 Sep 01 | UK
    UK pays its respects
    12 Sep 01 | Scotland
    Missing son phoned from skyscraper
    12 Sep 01 | Northern Ireland
    Survivors' family die in tragic twist
    12 Sep 01 | UK
    UK on high security alert
    13 Sep 01 | UK
    'They told us we were safe'
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