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Last Updated: Monday, 15 December, 2003, 13:22 GMT
Tube attack exercise shows flaws
Rescuers outside Bank station
Rescuers found it difficult to communicate in their gas masks
More work needs to be done on plans for dealing with a terror attack on London after a simulation on the Tube threw up glaring deficiencies, says a report.

Hundreds of emergency personnel were involved in the pretend chemical attack on Bank station in September.

The report into the exercise found that while much had been done to improve responses, more action was needed.

It found new rescue plans for the Underground were needed and rescuers could not talk through their gas masks.

Rescuers wore full protective clothing on the premise that the attack could be similar to that on the Tokyo underground in 1995 when deadly sarin gas was released.

It left 12 people dead and thousands seriously ill, including firefighters who tried to rescue victims.

In the London exercise, decontamination units were set up at ground level and the immediate area around the strike - the so-called "Hot Zone" - was sealed off.

We have identified areas that need further development
Alistair Darling
Transport secretary

The report by London Resilience, a consortium of the emergency services and transport operators, said much had been done already to address the threat from terrorism to the capital.

The government, the emergency services and Ken Livingstone, Mayor of London, were praised for their work on improving equipment and planning.

However, the report warned that the number of people and specialist equipment needed for such an emergency should not be underestimated.

It found that more work was needed on producing alternative rescue plans for hard-to-reach areas like the Underground.

Also communication between those working in difficult conditions, especially those in protective suits, needed to be improved.

Ambulance crews, who were treating "casualties" on the streets of the Square Mile, needed to provide quicker assessment, care and delivery of antidotes to contaminated casualties.

Further exercises

Transport secretary Alistair Darling said the exercise had been "extremely valuable".

"Exercises such as this are also an opportunity to learn and we have identified areas that need further development.

"While some of the conclusions need to remain confidential for reasons of security, we are today fulfilling our commitment to make public the key findings that the emergency services and others have identified."

The report found contingency planning, preparation and funding for responding to such large scale emergencies needed to be given high priority.

September's simulated terror attack was organised by London Resilience and similar exercises have been planned over the next two years.

They include a joint British/American exercise in 2005.

Home Secretary David Blunkett said: "Tackling terrorism is given the highest priority by the government and our programme of exercises is part of a continuous cycle of planning, training, reviewing, revision and more planning to improve our preparedness.

"Testing our ability to respond to an incident is an important part of our counter-terrorism strategy."

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