ST PETERSBURG • A thunderclap, then a strong smell and smoke.
This was how a student who survived a subway train blast in Russia's old imperial capital yesterday described the moments before all hell broke loose when a bomb went off in one of the carriages, the Telegraph reported.
"We were riding in the neighbouring carriage and at that time it was very crowded - all the seats were taken and many were standing," said the student, whom Gazeta.ru identified only as Polina.
She was travelling between the Sennaya Square and Technology Institute stations in the St Petersburg subway system.
Videos showed injured people lying bleeding on a platform, some being treated by emergency services and fellow passengers.
Others ran from the platform amid clouds of smoke, some screaming or holding their hands to their faces, Reuters reported.
After the explosion, "we all moved to the opposite end of the wagon, people jammed together and two women passed out", said Polina. This was happening while the train was still moving, she added.
"Everyone got out at the Technology Institute station. There, we saw that the neighbouring wagon was shattered, the windows blown out, no light, blood," she said.
A huge hole was blown open in the side of a carriage, with metal wreckage strewn across the platform. Passengers were seen hammering at the windows of one closed carriage.
Russian television said many suffered lacerations from glass shards and metal, the force of the explosion maximised by the confines of the carriage and the tunnel.
As ambulances and fire engines descended on the concrete-and-glass Sennaya Square station, a helicopter hovered overhead while crowds gathered to observe the rescue operations.
"My mum was in the metro; I don't know what's happened to her. I can't get hold of her," one woman, Natalia, told Agence France-Presse outside the Technology Institute station as she tried to make a call on her mobile phone.
St Petersburg emergency services said at first that there had been two explosions. But it was later confirmed that there had been only one blast but that the explosion occurred in a tunnel between stations.