Deadly blast rocks St. Petersburg subway
Explosion between busy stations kills up to 11; bomb found and defused at 2nd station
An explosion ripped through a subway train in the Russian city of St. Petersburg on Monday afternoon, killing up to 11 people and injuring 45 others, according to officials. The blast came as Russian President Vladimir Putin was visiting the city, his hometown.
Putin, speaking from Constantine Palace in St. Petersburg, said investigators were looking into whether the explosion was a terror attack or if there might have been some other cause. He offered his condolences to the families of those killed.
"I have already spoken to the head of our special services. They are working to ascertain the cause," Putin, said.
"We will look at all possible causes, terrorism as well as common crime," he added.
Russia's anti-terrorism committee later said it had found and deactivated a bomb at another St. Petersburg subway station, Vosstaniya Square.
Driver praised for quick action
The blast occurred at 2:20 p.m. local time as the train arrived at the Technology Institute station from the Sennaya Ploshchad stop, according to officials.
The driver chose to continue on to the next station, a decision praised by Russia's Investigative Committee as aiding evacuation efforts and reducing the danger that passengers would die by trying to walk along the subway's electrified tracks.
Russian Health Minister Veronika Skvortsova said seven people were killed on the scene, followed by three others who died at or en route to hospital. Thirty-nine people remain in hospital, Skvortsova said.
The death toll wavered between eight and 10 in the immediate aftermath of the blast, as officials gave conflicting statements.
Images of the bloody scene quickly spread across social media, as witnesses posted photos and video of bleeding people lying on the platform, some being treated by emergency services.
Some ran away from the platform amid clouds of smoke toward the exits of the station, which is 40 metres underground.
"Everything was covered in smoke, there were a lot of firefighters," Maria Smirnova, a student on a train behind the one where a bomb went off, told the Dozhd television channel. "Firefighters shouted at us to run for the exit and everyone ran. Everyone was panicking."
Other people were seen hammering at the windows of one closed carriage, trying to see if anyone was inside, and shouting "Call an ambulance!"
Late Monday, U.S. President Donald Trump spoke with Putin to offer condolences to the victims of the blast.
"President Trump offered the full support of the United States government in responding to the attack and bringing those responsible to justice," a White House statement said. "Trump and President Putin agreed that terrorism must be decisively and quickly defeated," it said.
System shut down
The entire St. Petersburg subway system, which serves some two million riders a day, was shut down and evacuated. Russia's National Anti-Terrorist Committee said security was immediately tightened at all of the country's key transportation sites, and Moscow officials said that included the subway in the Russian capital
St. Petersburg, Russia's second-largest city with over five million residents, is the country's most popular tourist destination. The two stations involved in the blast are some of the subway's busiest.
Putin was in St. Petersburg on Monday for talks with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.
Russian trains and planes have been targeted repeatedly by Islamic militants, mostly connected to the insurgency in Chechnya and other Caucasus republics. The last confirmed attack was in October 2015 when ISIS militants downed a Russian airliner heading from an Egyptian resort, killing all 224 people on board.
The Dec. 25 crash of a Russian plane carrying Red Army Choir members near the southern city of Sochi is widely believed to have been due to a bomb, but no official cause has been stated for the crash that killed 92 people.
With files from CBC News and Reuters