HELSINGFORS -- Terrific aerial bombardment shook the center of Helsingfors today.
I saw several fires started, buildings damaged and windows shattered as I telephoned this dispatch.
I was hurled to the floor of my hotel room by the terrific explosion of the bombs.
I saw one auto-bus crushed and bodies thrown out into the street.
At least a dozen bombs were dropped and there were two gigantic blasts among them. Windows for a dozen blocks around were broken.
Planes fly high
Anti-aircraft guns are firing continuously as I telephone.
From my hotel window I can see at least three burning buildings. There is smoke and apparently there are other fires in the background.
It would appear that the casualties inflicted by the Soviet planes were high because the people -- recovering from earlier air alarms -- had returned to the streets in mid-afternoon when the bombs began falling from a cloudy sky.
The attacking planes were high in the sky. They presumably struck at the railroad station, but if they did their aim was poor and tons of high explosives rained on the center of the city of 268,000 population.
Observers believed that the raiding planes were dropping "termite" bombs, which are designed like aerial torpedoes to penetrate buildings and sometimes are incendiary.
As I watched, more bombs fell and it appeared that 20 or 30 in all were aimed at the city. The continued firing of Finnish guns, however, made it difficult to tell how many had been dropped.
The population was dazed by the sudden fury of the aerial attack.
There had been air raid warnings during the day, but the people had shaken off their first fear of attack and the streets were crowded in mid-afternoon when the alarm sounded again.
Some shops had reopened and crowds were reading the news on bulletin boards.
The daughter of a member of the United Press staff, quartered in the Torni Hotel, had gone out to buy the latest editions of the newspapers when the bombing attack came.
She was missing about an hour afterward.
The Torni (Tower) Hotel, is three blocks from the railroad station at which the bombs apparently were aimed. The huge glass dome of the hotel fell into a lobby as a result of the concussion caused by nearby bombs.
When the first raid began, the people went calmly from the streets. Employees of the hotel and air raid precaution workers methodically began directing people to the cellars.
Just as the first blast struck, I was called to the telephone.
The operator cooly said there was an urgent call from Copenhagen.
She put it through.
Knocked to floor
As soon as I started talking another bomb fell, exploding so powerfully that I was knocked to the floor. Then the explosions increased and the Finnish guns began firing.
Traffic in the center of the city was paralyzed by the bombardment.
Street car service was disrupted.
Ambulances clanged to the scenes of wreckage and fire wagons raced to burning buildings.
Authorities immediately started crews digging into the wreckage to recover bodies or injured.
The population appeared stupefied.
In many cases they stood staring at the skies, while the bombs fell from planes that flashed in and out of cloud banks.
Many appeared too dazed to go inside or to cellars, and that apparently increased the casualty toll.
Apartment houses were burning fiercely near the heart of the city.
The fires had started inside, due to the penetrating qualities of the bombs.
Officials said that bombs apparently had been aimed at the harbor and fortress, as well as at the railroad station. The alarm sirens sounded only a minute before the bombs began falling.