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A series of about six explosions rocked London's public transport system Thursday morning, killing at least two people and injuring others. Mobile and fixed-line telephone networks were severely congested as panicked Londoners called relatives in the city, but there were no initial reports of more widespread communications damage.
The cause of the explosions, which tore through a double-decker bus, an underground station and other locations, was not known early Thursday afternoon, although Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair said the incidents appeared to be the work of terrorists.
London's public transport system was brought to a halt, with all Underground stations and bus routes closed, according to several reports.
Representatives from local operators Orange, O2 (UK), T-Mobile UK, Vodafone, and British Telecommunications all said they appeared to have suffered no damage to their infrastructure.
"Our network is not damaged but we are experiencing a high volume of traffic, forcing customers to dial numbers a few times before they get a connection," a Vodafone spokesperson says. "We're telling them they can expect some delay but they should keep trying."
Orange spokesperson Sarah Taylor says: "No U.K. mobile phone operators have infrastructure in the tube, so there are no base stations that can be affected in the Underground system. "We have taken action to ensure maximum availability and improve traffic flow on our network in the London area."
BT saw a big surge in call volumes, congesting its networks and leading to delays in calls getting through, a spokesperson says.
"We're asking people to only make essential calls," he says.
The news Web site of the British Broadcasting Corp., the state TV and radio company, continued to provide updates on events, although the site was slower to load than usual.
The main BBC Web site at www.bbc.co.uk, which usually carries information about TV programs and entertainment, was unavailable for part of the morning. It came back online around midday in a slimmed-down form, with news headlines relating to the explosions and a warning not to call emergency services except in life-threatening situations.
There was no noticeable variation in the volume of Internet traffic through The London Internet Exchange (Linx), which manages peering points in London for all major U.K. ISPs.
"With the Internet, there's been no effect," says Vanessa Evans, a spokesperson for Linx, adding, "There's a lot of traffic flowing to the news sites, which are holding up very well."
John Blau and James Niccolai
IDG News Service