Nannies, parents race to find kids after London subway attack

LONDON — Parents and nannies bustling their children to school were enjoying an unseasonably sunny morning in the Parsons Green neighborhood on Friday when they were suddenly swamped by helicopters, police cars and ambulances.

Just after 8:20 a.m. local time (3:20 a.m. ET), the fiery detonation of an improvised device on a subway train brought terrorism to the affluent area.

And amid the hysteria and stampede of commuters dashing for safety, some found themselves separated from young loved ones.

“Everyone was doing the 100-meter sprint at the same time. The girl I sat next to fell to the floor — she got trampled on and flattened," Luke Walmsley, 33, a video editor, told NBC News at the scene. "There were lots of kids and lots of nannies and moms trying to work out where their kids were."

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An injured woman reacts outside Parsons Green tube station in London, Britain September 15, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Coombs
LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 15: A police officer escorts an injured woman from the scene at Parsons Green Underground Station on September 15, 2017 in London, England. Several people have been injured after an explosion on a tube train in south-west London. The Police are treating the incident as terrorism. (Photo by Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 15: A police officer escorts an injured woman from the scene at Parsons Green Underground Station on September 15, 2017 in London, England. Several people have been injured after an explosion on a tube train in south-west London. The Police are treating the incident and terrorism. (Photo by Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images)
Armed police officers walk through a carriage of a London underground tube train at Parsons Green station in London, Britain September 15, 2017. REUTERS/Hannah McKay
A woman reacts outside Parsons Green tube station in London, Britain September 15, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Coombs
A man sits and waits in a London underground tube train at Parsons Green station in London, Britain September 15, 2017. REUTERS/Hannah McKay
A woman reacts outside Parsons Green tube station in London, Britain September 15, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Coombs
Police officers walk on the road near Parsons Green tube station in London, Britain September 15, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Coombs
An injured woman is led away after an incident at Parsons Green underground station in London, Britain, September 15, 2017. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor
People react near Parsons Green tube station in London, Britain September 15, 2017. REUTERS/Hannah McKay
Police officers and sniffer dogs walk near Parsons Green tube station in London, Britain September 15, 2017. REUTERS/Hannah McKay
Police officers stand on the road near Parsons Green tube station in London, Britain September 15, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Coombs
Police officers escort members of the public out of their inner cordon as they work near Parsons Green underground tube station in west London on September 15, 2017, following an incident on an underground tube carriage at the station. Police and ambulance services said they were responding to an 'incident' at Parsons Green underground station in west London on Friday, following media reports of an explosion. A Metro.co.uk reporter at the scene was quoted by the paper as saying that a white container exploded on the train and passengers had suffered facial burns. / AFP PHOTO / Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS (Photo credit should read DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images)
A woman walks with her dog past police cordon near Parsons Green tube station in London, Britain September 15, 2017. REUTERS/Hannah McKay
Armed policemen stand outside Parsons Green tube station in London, Britain September 15, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Coombs
Police officers escort members of the public out of their inner cordon as they work near Parsons Green underground tube station in west London on September 15, 2017, following an incident on an underground tube carriage at the station. Police and ambulance services said they were responding to an 'incident' at Parsons Green underground station in west London on Friday, following media reports of an explosion. A Metro.co.uk reporter at the scene was quoted by the paper as saying that a white container exploded on the train and passengers had suffered facial burns. / AFP PHOTO / Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS (Photo credit should read DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images)
Members of the London Fire Brigade stand by cordon near Parsons Green tube station in London, Britain September 15, 2017. REUTERS/Hannah McKay
People stand by an ambulance near Parsons Green tube station in London, Britain September 15, 2017. REUTERS/Hannah McKay
Police vehicles line the street near Parsons Green tube station in London, Britain September 15, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Coombs
Members of a bomb disposal squad stand in the street near Parsons Green tube station in London, Britain September 15, 2017. REUTERS/Hannah McKay
People speak with a police officer outside Parsons Green tube station in London, Britain September 15, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Coombs
Armed policemen stand by cordon near Parsons Green tube station in London, Britain September 15, 2017. REUTERS/Hannah McKay
LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 15: The emergency services are seen near the police cordon at Parsons Green Underground Station on September 15, 2017 in London, England. Emergency services are investigating reports of an explosion at the West London tube station. (Photo by Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images)
An injured woman is led away after an incident at Parsons Green underground station in London, Britain, September 15, 2017. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor
Staff from a local Italian restaurant hands out pizza and water from a stall near Parsons Green tube station in London, Britain September 15, 2017. REUTERS/Hannah McKay
Deputy Chief Constable Adrian Hanstock of the British Transport Police makes a statement to the media after an incident at Parsons Green underground station in London, Britain, September 15, 2017. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor
LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 15: A forensic tent is seen next to the stopped tube train at Parsons Green Underground Station on September 15, 2017 in London, England. Several people have been injured after an explosion on a tube train in south-west London. The Police are treating the incident as terrorism. (Photo by Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images)
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Walmsley was a few subway cars away, but he and other witnesses described seeing a flash that caused minor burns to some passengers.

Lauren Hubbard, 24, described standing by the doors of the subway and suddenly hearing a loud bang.

"This wall of fire was just coming towards us, so we just ran," Hubbard said. "The fireball came at us. If the doors were shut, people would have been engulfed.”

Victims were taken to a nearby brasserie, which was being used as an impromptu triage center.

Ben Geoghegan, 21, was in his house opposite Parsons Green station when the incident occurred.

“The sirens and the screaming and the people running out woke me up a bit, and I looked out the window to see people streaming out of the station,” he said.

Geoghegan, who works in a bar, said he saw several victims taken to the restaurant for treatment.

“There was one lady stretchered," he said. "Other people just had burns on their arms or legs."

Police said none of the victims' wounds were life-threatening.

Antonio Bruno, 30, who also lives across the street, watched more than 10 people with burns leave the subway station.

He pointed out that the detonation occurred at a busy time of day, and that it coincided with the end of the second week of school.

"It’s a very peak time,” Bruno said.

Related: 90 Percent of U.K. Police Don't Carry Guns. Here's Why.

The British capital is no stranger to these sorts of incidents, after recent attacks on London Bridge and nearby Borough Market as well as Westminster Bridgethis year.

Many Londoners have refused to be cowed — often invoking the World War II "spirit of the Blitz" and their stoic resolve in the face of decades of attacks by the IRA.

This "stiff upper lip" mentality was on show Friday, with many locals and passersby taking pictures on their iPhones or calmly waiting in their bathrobes after emerging from their Victorian and Georgian houses to see what all the commotion was about.

Despite the cavalry of police and journalists, many continued to walk their dogs, while others decided it was time for a pint in the local pub, the Duke on the Green, which of course, this being Britain, was already open.

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