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London to stage 'chemical attack'

Emergency crews will
Emergency crews will "rescue victims" during chemical weapons drill in London's Underground.

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LONDON, England -- British emergency services will simulate a chemical weapons attack Sunday on a subway train below London's financial district in an effort to test the city's ability to deal with a terrorist strike.

The drill, which will last several hours, will see emergency crews put on protective suits to rescue "casualties'' trapped in a train stopped in a Underground tunnel near Bank station.

It will mark the first time a large-scale exercise has taken place in London since the September 11, 2001 terrorists attacks in the United States. It is also first time new decontamination units will be seen in public.

"London has faced many challenges and threats in the 2,000 years of its history, not least in the last 30 years," Minister for London Nick Raynsford said.

"We have had to be prepared for all new threats that emerge," he said. "As we saw in the last week on the Tube with the power failure in some parts of the city, there are always new lessons to be learned."

Raynsford stressed that Sunday's drill was not in response to a specific threat but was designed to test the emergency services' responses.

However, Britain's top police officer, John Stevens, said this week that the country faced a threat from suicide bombers and that London authorities were on its "highest level of alert'' for any attack.

Home Office minister Beverley Hughes said: "The threat from terrorism remains real and serious. The CBRN threat (Chemical Biological, Radiological or Nuclear) must be taken seriously.''

During the drill, police, firefighters and ambulance staff will rush to assist Tube "passengers'' at Bank station, underneath the Bank of England.

The "victims'' will be carried by stretcher to the surface to decontamination tents or in the street above.

Roads around Bank station will be closed until the drill is completed at about 4:30 p.m.

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