Madrid: Anger, heartbreak, solidarity

A Madrid-based correspondent describes the scenes surrounding the recent train bombings in Europe's worst terrorist atrocity since Lockerbie.

There were so many people in the streets of Madrid on Friday evening that no one could move.
It was the first of three days of national mourning for the scores of dead and injured in Thursday’s attacks.

It was pouring with rain as hundreds of thousands of protestors began assembling in the streets before the demonstration began. Later the crowds would swell to about two million.

On Thursday at about 0630 GMT a series of 10 bombings - beginning at Madrid's central Atocha train station - killed at least 200 and injured or maimed more than 1,400. Other bombs exploded at El Pozo station and Santa Eugenia station in the ensuing minutes.

Three more bombs, hidden in backpacks, were deactivated by police.

The following day most homes in Madrid flew a flag with black ribbons while the rest of the country joined in solidarity.

Many people in Madrid have done all they can to help and ease the suffering of those who have lost loved ones.

Many have given blood in emergency centres set up near to the wreckages of the bombed trains.

About 500 volunteers from emergency and other professional services arrived in Madrid in the hours after the bombings took place to assist the families of the dead and survivors.

Many of the dead are young people who were going to high school. University students in Madrid had organised a strike on Thursday. If there had been lectures to attend, the toll would have been worse still.

It would also have been worse if train had exploded inside Atocha station; however the train had arrived two minutes late so exploded as it waited for a free platform.

After the explosions occurred, neighbours rushed from their homes with water and blankets to tend to the injured. There were no doctors to begin with so survivors, shocked and dazed, were treated by ordinary citizens who happened to be in the immediate area.

One of the bombs deactivated by police in a backpack, featured dynamite and a mobile phone as a detonator. The tragedy's perpetrators remain a mystery.

About 27 of the dead are foreigners and many of them were in Spain illegally. Their relatives - fearful of being arrested as they arrive to visit or identify relatives - have been reassured by the Spanish government they will be asked no questions regarding their legal status.

About 30 of those who died in the blasts are said by the Spanish authorities to be unidentifiable.

A five-year old boy was found on Thursday alive in one of the trains and taken to hospital. A seven-month old girl was also pulled from the wreckage of one train, but later died in hospital. Her mother was also injured and taken to hospital - her father has not yet been found.

The Spanish government remains convinced the Basque separatist group, Eta, is behind Thursday's attacks.

Others suggest the Madrid bombings were carried out by the Islamic militant network al-Qaeda.