EXPLOSION IN MANCHESTER
At least 19 dead, 50 injured in what police are treating as a terrorist incident
An explosion at a pop concert in the northern English city of Manchester late Monday left at least 19 people dead and about 50 others injured, according to police.
“This is currently being treated as a terrorist incident until police know otherwise,” the Greater Manchester Police said in a statement.
Witnesses interviewed by the BBC reported hearing a loud blast following a performance by American pop singer Ariana Grande at Manchester Arena. Police said the blast occurred around 10:30 p.m.
Initial evidence at the scene suggested the attack may have been a suicide bombing, according to two U.S. security officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation. British authorities, who were meeting in emergency sessions across Manchester and London, did not immediately confirm those reports.
Cellphone video showed chaotic scenes of people screaming and running in the aftermath of the blast. The arena was packed with attendees and pink balloons that had fallen from the ceiling during the concert’s final song. Initially, concertgoers said they thought popping balloons set off a panic.
But witnesses later reported seeing the prone bodies of those who had been wounded and killed, as well as others who were streaked with blood and were staggering away from the scene. Some were injured in the rush to get out.
Wythenshawe hospital officials said it was dealing with “mass casualties.” Heavily armed police and emergency services swarmed the arena as emergency services advised the public to call only “for lifethreatening emergencies.”
Many of those attending the concert were teenagers. Witnesses reported that outside the arena, parents were frantically attempting to locate their children.
A father told the BBC that he was leaving the arena with his wife and daughter when the blast blew him through a set of doors. Afterward, the man, identified as Andy, said he saw about 30 people “scattered everywhere. Some of them looked dead.”
Separated from his wife and daughter, he said, he “looked at some of the bodies trying to find my family.” He later found them alive.
“It was really scary,” Michelle Sullivan, who was attending the concert with her 12- and 15-year-old daughters, told the BBC. “Just as the lights have gone down, we heard a really loud explosion … Everybody screamed. When we got out, they just said, ‘Keep on running, keep on running.’”
Witness Karen Ford said “there were kids outside, crying on the phone, trying to find their parents.”
Concertgoers said the smell of explosives hung heavily in the air. The singer was “OK,” a spokesperson for Grande’s record label told the Reuters news agency.
Around 1:30 a.m., police announced that there would be a controlled explosion after a suspicious device was found. A loud bang was heard minutes later.
The arena has a capacity of 21,000. Manchester transport police said the explosion occurred in the arena’s foyer, where people were congregating to buy concert merchandise. Manchester Arena said the attack took place just outside the facility, in a public space.