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Wednesday, 12 September, 2001, 14:10 GMT 15:10 UK
Britons tell of miraculous escapes
Survivors running from the scene
Survivors ran for their lives from the scene of the attack
Britons have told of their terror as they escaped from the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.

Prime Minister Tony Blair has already warned that many British people will be among the dead and injured.

But British lawyer Mark Oliver, who was on the 57th floor of the north tower when the first hijacked plane struck it, was one of those lucky enough to escape.

He described how he was thrown forward in the ensuing explosion.

He watched in horror as he saw debris fall from from the flaming building.

There was glass and debris everywhere and everyone was in a state of shock

British survivor Mark Oliver

He described the moment of impact: "The building violently lurched forward. Again it lurched forward."

He told the BBC: "I looked out of the window and saw the wreckage of the plane falling though I didn't know it was a plane then. There was a lot of fuel."

Calm evacuation

He told how most people remained calm as they attempted to escape through thick smoke and flames down 50 flights of stairs.

Smoke billows from World Trade Center
The twin towers collapsed within hours of the attack
The 34-year-old was separated from his colleagues in the confusion as he had to switch staircases.

"When we got there [the stairwell] it was engulfed in smoke and water and we were moved to a separate flight of stairs.

"We had to change again at about the 44th floor due to the smoke and I got separated from my colleagues."

"I had no idea where my colleagues were," he said.

Mr Oliver said: "I just headed down the stairs.

"As time went on I had to move to one side and let the injured pass.

"A lot of people were burnt, it was awful."

Once outside Mr Oliver, who had only been working in the building for three weeks, said he was greeted by a scene of pandemonium.

Panic stricken

"When we reached the subway, people were just screaming at us, 'Don't look up, just keep going, run for your lives'.

"There was glass and debris everywhere and everyone was in a state of shock," he said.

He said he was struck by the contrast between this act of incomprehensible violence and the selfless acts of others.

Mr Oliver said: "People were rushing to help people. People were doing everything they could to get people out."

His father Barry, from Northampton, said: "We tried non-stop to get through to him and it was wonderful when we heard his voice."

Safe and sound

A British banker told how he led 60 staff to safety moments before the World Trade Center collapsed.

Simon Perkins, 32, vice president of merchant bank Schroder Salomon Smith Barney, was on the 52nd floor of the building next to the twin towers when the attack happened.

His father Ray, from Plymouth, Devon, said: "When I heard about the attack I was convinced Simon had been killed and it was not for another four hours until I learned he was safe.

"We are very lucky that he is still alive.

"If he had been there when the planes struck he would have had no chance of getting out."

A telephone helpline has been set up for worried friends and relatives. For information call 0207 008 0000.

The BBC's Margaret Gilmore
"As allies to America, the UK is not immune to risk"
See also:

12 Sep 01 | UK
UK on high security alert
12 Sep 01 | Business
Sombre mood in the City
11 Sep 01 | Scotland
Rescuers on US stand-by
11 Sep 01 | UK Politics
Blair condemns terrorist 'evil'
11 Sep 01 | UK Politics
Blair's statement in full
11 Sep 01 | UK
UK buildings evacuated
11 Sep 01 | Americas
Could the planes have been stopped?
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