Londoners could be sent to Suffolk

THOUSANDS of Londoners could be evacuated to Suffolk if terrorists launched a catastrophic attack on the capital, the Evening Star can reveal today.As the authorities take stock of Britain's largest-ever civil defence exercise, held at the weekend in the West Midlands, it has emerged that Suffolk could be asked to provide temporary homes for thousands of Londoners if they were attacked.

THOUSANDS of Londoners could be evacuated to Suffolk if terrorists launched a catastrophic attack on the capital, the Evening Star can reveal today.

As the authorities take stock of Britain's largest-ever civil defence exercise, held at the weekend in the West Midlands, it has emerged that Suffolk could be asked to provide temporary homes for thousands of Londoners if they were attacked.

In an echo of plans last used more than 60 years ago during the blitz, local authorities throughout the south of England have been asked to deal with an influx of evacuees in the event of a "dirty bomb" leaving large areas of London uninhabitable.

Suffolk would not be one of the first counties to accept evacuees - they would go to areas nearer the capital like Essex, Hertfordshire, and Kent.


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But if the situation was very serious, the county would be expected to find space for thousands of people on a temporary basis.

Potential sites have been identified by emergency planning officers - including large parks and Newmarket racecourse.

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It is believed the authorities would want people to be placed reasonably near hospitals because many may need treatment after exposure to radioactive materials or dangerous chemicals.

The London Resilience Team is a group of senior police, fire, other emergency workers and politicians, drawn together in the wake of the attacks on 9/11 to draw up a plan to deal with a catastrophic attack.

It is chaired by minister for London Nick Raynsford - whose job is part of the Office of Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) - and also includes London mayor Ken Livingstone.

The team drew up plans for Operation Sassoon - named after the first world war poet - early last year.

These plans were presented to senior ministers last year - and have been kept under review since then.

A number of scenarios have been considered - including the widespread evacuation of the capital involving up to seven million people.

In that case the government would commandeer a number of sites including holiday centres.

Officials at the ODPM have helped draw up the plans - which envisage problems caused by an event such as the explosion of a large bomb containing a considerable amount of radioactive material.

However the London Resilience Team does not expect damage to the capital to be long-term.

It would be looking to evacuate people for a matter of days or weeks rather than months or years.

A spokeswoman for the ODPM confirmed today that evacuation plans had been drawn up, but would not discuss their details.

"We don't think we would ever have to put these plans into operation, but they are there if needed," she said.

"We can't go into any details - we don't want to give the terrorists any help - but local authorities are aware that these plans exist," she said.

It is thought that Suffolk - and East Anglia in general - could be used for evacuees if a dirty bomb was targeted on the City of London which is on the east side of the capital.

Road and rail links out of this area run directly to region - and it would be easier to evacuate residents here than it would be to move them to the home counties which would involve traveling across other parts of the county.

nDo you think evacuees from London should be moved to Suffolk? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

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