An explosion tore through a train as it was traveling between two stations in Russia’s second-biggest city, injuring dozens more.
A second device was found and defused at another station, Russia’s Anti-Terrorism Committee said. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, which led to the shutdown of the city’s metro system.
President Vladimir Putin, who had been in St. Petersburg earlier in the day, said all causes were being investigated, including terrorism. Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev described the explosion as a “terrorist act.”
The blast was caused by an unidentified explosive device It happened in a train car as it passed through a tunnel The train’s conductor possibly saved lives, committee said Dozens were injured, several in critical condition, authorities said A second device was found at another metro station and disabled
The blast happened just after 2:30 p.m. (7:40 a.m. ET) as the train was traveling in a tunnel from Sennaya Ploshchad to Tekhnologichesky Institut stations in the city center. In the confusion, initial reports suggested there were two blasts.
Investigators are seizing items relative to the investigation, questioning witnesses and metro employees and working to confirm the number of dead and injured, Russia’s Investigative Committee said in a statement.
The train’s conductor possibly saved lives, the committee said, because rather than stop the train after the blast, he continued on to the next station, which allowed passengers to evacuate and rescuers to tend to victims.
Photographs show the facade of one of the cars ripped off and passengers running from the Tekhnologichesky Institute station as it filled with smoke. Victims said they helped each other escape the train.
Bodies were seen strewn across a station platform outside the train. Rescuers carried bandaged and bloodied victims out of the station.
A spokesman for the National Anti-Terrorism Committee said the blast was caused by an unidentified explosive device in one of the train’s cars.
“So far, we say it was an unidentified explosive device as investigators and the Federal Security Service’s bomb specialists are to establish the exact cause of this explosion,” Andrei Przhezdomsky told state-run Russia 24.
A second device was found at another metro station — Revolutionary Square — and was disabled, the committee said in statement.
Thirty-nine people have been hospitalized, six of whom had critical injuries, the health ministry said, putting the number of dead at 11. Other agencies in St. Petersburg gave differing numbers for the dead and injured.
Authorities closed down the entire metro system, whose five lines carry 2.3 million people a day.
‘We expected death’
Passengers described the horror in the aftermath of the blast.
“In the metro car, everyone expected death, if I can say that. After the explosion, everyone expected consequences. Then we were taken out, and people began to help each other, brought others out. Most were covered in blood,” a passenger on the train told state-run TASS.
Another passenger at the Sennaya station, Stanislav Listyev, said he felt the explosion and saw smoke coming out of the tunnel.
“I was going down the escalator at Sennaya Square at about half past 2, and at that moment I felt an explosion wave underneath. Everything was filled with smoke, people started panicking. So the trains stopped and almost immediately the evacuation started,” he told CNN.
Putin expressed condolences to the victims and is talking to the security services about the investigation, according to state media.
“The reasons for the explosion are unknown, so it’s too early to talk about it. The investigation will show what happened,” Putin said, at the beginning of a meeting with Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko. “Naturally, we always consider all options — both domestic and criminal, primarily incidents of a terrorist nature.”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Putin had been in St. Petersburg speaking at a media event.
Viktor Ozerov, chairman of the defense committee in the Federation Council, said that the choice of St. Petersburg as a target may have been tied to Putin’s visit.
“The choice of the place and the timing of these blasts is not accidental. The president of Russia is in [St. Petersburg]. The media forum is taking place there. There are many journalists,” Ozerov said.
Medvedev said victims would be provided with “all necessary assistance.” He said in a Facebook message: “My most sincere condolences to the families and friends of the victims of the explosion.”
Russia was once a hotspot for terror attacks, but the country has experienced relatively few in recent years.
In December 2013, a suicide bombing at a train station in Volgograd killed at least 16 people. The following day, in the same city, a suicide bombing on a trolley bus killed 14 people.
In 2010, two female suicide bombers blew themselves up at two Moscow metro stations, killing 40. They were linked to the Chechen insurgency.
And in 2002, Chechen rebels killed 170 people in a theater hostage situation in the capital, Moscow.