- On Thursday 7 July 2005, London was hit by a series of bomb attacks. Fifty-two people died and more than 700 were injured.
- The British Red Cross responded within minutes, sending ambulances and dozens of trained volunteers to the scenes of the explosions, who provided first aid and comfort to those affected.
- On Friday 8 July, the Mayor of London set up the London Bombings Charitable Relief Fund, in association with the Red Cross.
- Red Cross staff and volunteers helped staff a family assistance centre and a telephone support line, set up for survivors and the bereaved.
On Thursday 7 July, at the height of the morning rush hour, four bombs were detonated in central London. Three exploded on the London Underground network at King’s Cross, Aldgate and Edgware Road. A fourth bomb exploded shortly afterwards on a bus travelling through Tavistock Place.
Fifty-seven people died in the blasts, including the four bombers. More than 700 people were injured, with some 300 requiring hospital treatment. The Red Cross, as part of its role as an auxiliary to the emergency services, acted on a number of fronts, deploying hundreds of volunteers, minutes after the attacks.
The British Red Cross’ immediate response
© InfoWithin minutes of the explosions, ten Red Cross ambulances attended the sites of the blasts, following a request for support from the London Ambulance Service. Based at King’s Cross, Edgware Road, Russell Square and Liverpool Street, 80 trained volunteers provided first aid and comfort to hundreds of injured and distressed commuters.
A further 15 ambulances went on standby and were deployed throughout the day. In total, 25 Red Cross ambulances were involved in the operation and 60 more were on standby across the south-east.
When there was no longer a need to maintain a presence at the incident sites, the ambulances supported the London Ambulance Service as they carried out their normal duties, responding to emergency calls.
More than 100 Red Cross volunteers were also present at 46 stations around London and the South East, providing medical care and comfort to commuters as they made their way home.
The British Red Cross’ ongoing role
On Friday 8 July, the Mayor of London established the London Bombings Relief Charitable Fund, in association with the Red Cross, to raise money for the victims and their families.
More than £8.6 million was raised and the fund made payments to the victims of the bombings and their families. The money raised was used to relieve sickness and disability, physical or mental, caused by the attack or to relieve financial needs.
The 7th July Assistance Centre, opened in central London, helped hundreds of people following the bombings. It was managed by Westminster Council, supported by the Metropolitan Police with the British Red Cross assuming the role of lead voluntary agency.
Red Cross staff and volunteers, together with other agencies, provided practical support and comfort to distressed relatives and survivors. All the Red Cross volunteers are trained befrienders and have experience in providing support to those facing a crisis or emergency situation.
On Tuesday 12 July, a telephone support line was set up at the Red Cross’ UK Office, later relocating to the Victoria area. The 7th July Assistance Support Line was staffed by Red Cross volunteers and staff, working in partnership with other agencies.
Around 30 Red Cross volunteers provided first aid and emotional support to people who came to lay flowers at the scenes of the explosions. More volunteers provided first aid cover at the vigil in Trafalgar Square on Thursday 14 July, to remember the victims of the attacks.
The Red Cross also produced a schools education kit so teachers can help students think through some of the issues raised by the attacks. Over 15,000 schools were emailed about the pack, which is also available to download.
The British Red Cross’ role in responding to major incidents
The Red Cross has a pre-planned role to assist the emergency services in the event of a major incident. The Civil Contingencies Act requires the statutory services to work with voluntary organisations, including the Red Cross, when preparing and responding to major incidents.
In London, the Red Cross has 115 staff and around 2,000 trained volunteers of whom about 800 can be called on to respond within hours or days, depending on the nature of the emergency.
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