A fraction after 7pm on the 9th February 1996, the IRA ended their 17-month ceasefire with a huge explosion that ripped through the South Quays area of London’s Docklands.
Today, 15 years later and a lot has changed in the area, and while many of the buildings have been repaired or converted into different use, there is still one building standing empty after all these years, waiting for a new tenant.
The old South Quay’s DLR station has been torn down and a newer shiny version built a hundred yards or so away – not because of the bomb damage, which was minimal to the DLR – probably because it was a “thin structure” and the blast just went through it – but because the ongoing popularity of the area means they had to enlarge the station for more passengers.
The IRA may have tried to strike at the commercial heart of Docklands as it was at the time, but it is clear that had no impact on people’s desire to live and work in the area. They failed in that goal at least.
At the time I worked in what was part of the area controlled by the Docklands Development Corporation – but was on the other side of the river – in the Surrey Quays Shopping Centre. It was the late night opening for the building, and I remember we had a load of the security guards in for a gossip when a huge shudder ran through the entire building.
Over a mile away and the blast was still strong enough to shake the building.
The security guards ran out to find out what was going on and it became clear within a few minutes from the TV news being shown in a local electrical retailer what had happened.
Today I live in a block of flats right next to the ones that had all their windows blown out by the bomb blast, although since then a veritable forest of new towers have gone up around the area, so I doubt that if today’s terrorists were to carry out a similar attack that the residential areas would be as badly affected. Although naturally, vastly more workers would be caught up any explosions, and only a few years ago – disguised as plant containers – a number of bomb blast protections were mounted along many of the pavements in Canary Wharf – just in case someone were to try and drive a van into a building.
There is a video clip of from the following day on the BBC News website.
James McArdle was jailed in 1998 for the bombing but later freed under the Good Friday Agreement. 39 people were taken to hospital for treatment. Local newsagents Inam Bashir and John Jeffries were killed.