ADVERTISER 150: Reporting 1996 IRA bomb at Canary Wharf and a struggling to cope 20 years later
PUBLISHED: 20:09 22 December 2016 | UPDATED: 20:09 22 December 2016
The devastation caused by the IRA bombing at Canary Wharf in 1996 is the next chapter in our nightly series marking the 150th anniversary of the East London Advertiser. The Semtex explosion outside the Midland Bank kills two men and injures 54 other people, many of them families in Millwall nearby, some of whom still struggle to deal with the aftermath even 20 years on...
1996: A massive Semtex bomb packed into a truck is set off by the IRA at Canary Wharf’s South Quay, shattering the Midland Bank headquarters in that cold evening rush-hour at 5pm on February 9.
Two men are killed outright in the street by South Quay DLR station, John Jeffreys and news-vendor shopkeeper Inam Bashir.
There are another 54 people injured including bank security guard Jonathan Ganesh who is buried by rubble, but manages to claw his way out.
“I couldn’t breathe and thought I was going to die,” he later tells the East London Advertiser.
“I saw a flash, then girders, glass, board and iron came down on me.
“I remember saying a prayer—‘please God, help me’.”
He leads bank staff to safety, despite his injuries, then goes back to search for more survivors until Fire Brigade rescue teams arrive.
Jonathan doesn’t know just how badly he is hurt himself, until a paramedic arrives and he is taken out by stretcher to an ambulance.
The blast sends shock waves through Millwall’s Barkantine Estate half-a-mile away where windows and people’s lives are shattered.
Gemaa Berezag had been due to do her cleaning job at the bank that evening, but her youngest daughter was ill.
Husband Zaoui goes in her place with help from her son Farid and older daughter Layla.
They just finish and are sitting in the car outside when the lorry packed with Semtex explosive goes off.
Gemaa recalls: “Zaoui was hit in the head and was two weeks in a coma. I lost everything that day—my job, my car, my husband as far as I’m concerned.”
Her husband suffers severe brain damage and needs 24-hour care. He is in a wheelchair for the rest of his life.
Her son and older daughter are also caught in the blast, and are in hospital with serious injuries. But they recover, although now unable to finish their college education.
Jonathan Ganesh champions their cause and sets up the Docklands Victims Association to fight for compensation for all those injured and bereaved from Libya’s dictator Colonel Gaddafi, who had supplied the IRA with Semtex for the bomb.
Jonathan’s campaign along with IRA victims in Northern Ireland continues for the next 20 for payment from Gaddafi’s frozen assets still held in London.
Gaddafi eventually makes payment to the USA for all American victims of his regime.
But his fall from power during Libya’s bloody revolution in 2011 dashes the hopes of the Docklands victims for compensation, despite Libyan assets banked in London which have been frozen. That would need an Act of Parliament to use those assets.
The Docklands’ campaign is taken up in the Commons by Poplar & Limehouse MP Jim Fitzpatrick. Only in 2016 is legislation finally going through Parliament for the compensation due to the victims of the IRA bombing at Canary Wharf almost 21 years ago.
1995: BREAKING NEWS IN THE EAST LONDON ADVERTISER INCLUDES REVELATIONS ABOUT THE KRAYS 30 YEARS BEFORE:
AN ALLEGED homosexual affair between Ronnie Kray and Tory peer Lord Boothby had threatened to plunge the Conservative Government into turmoil back in 1994, it is revealed in Cabinet papers issued under the 30-Year disclosure rule. Secret documents show the full extent of the scandal involving the East End gang boss of the Sixties and the former cabinet minister. The allegations were believed to be part of a Labour Party conspiracy to wreck the Government and might involve “Soviet subversion.” The scandal flared when a Sunday newspaper revealed the relationship between an underworld leader and well-known Tory peer who were said to have attended all-male parties in Mayfair. Blackmail was referred to and Lord Boothby was soon in the frame.
FAMILIES are fuming at firefighters’ noisy night-time capers. As the fight to save Poplar fire-station rages, nearby families in Cottage Street are flaming angry and have sparked a call to close the place that’s already under threat. “We won’t be upset if it closes—good riddance,” fumed Gary Northover. “It would do us all a favour. The bells and sirens go off at night and we’re woken most mornings by noise and lights and they mess about tooting each other. All we want is a good night’s kip.” Thirty residents petition Tower Hamlets council about the noise, but nothing has been done. They are woken at 5.45am by a voice on the fire station loud speaker shouting: “Pay attention everybody—wakey, wakey!”
A STORM of protest is expected over plans to convert The Telegraph pub on the Isle of Dogs into a mosque. The application is made to the London Docklands Development Corporation by a Mr Choudhury. It is thought he could be the same man behind an earlier plan to turn the Flamingo pub in Old Bethnal Green Road into a Muslim prayer house, which had since been dropped after complaints that the daily call to prayer would be a nuisance. Lune Longhurst, manageress of the Telegraph pub, doesn’t know what is going on behind the closed doors of the Council planning department. “There have been rumours for weeks,” she says. “There’s a strong belief that the Telegraph is going to be a mosque—the whispers persist.”
MYSTERY surrounds a report in the national press claiming that Millwall has been flooded. No-one on the Isle of Dogs seems to have noticed. The story said that “at high tide parts of the Isle of Dogs were under water.” A Town Hall spokeswoman tells the Advertiser: “No-one has reported anything to us.”