WATCH | At least 19 killed in blast at Ariana Grande concert in UK arena

May 23, 2017 - 7:48 AM
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Ariana Grande performs in a 2014 concert in Toronto. Right, concert goers flee the Manchester Arena in northern England where U.S. singer Ariana Grande had been performing in Manchester, Britain, May 22, 2017. (Photos by Fred Thornhill and Jon Super for Reuters)

A blast on Monday night at a concert in the English city of Manchester where U.S. singer Ariana Grande had been performing left at least 19 people dead and about 50 injured in what British police said was being treated as a terrorist incident.

Police said they were responding to reports of an explosion and that there were a number of confirmed fatalities and others injured at the arena, which has a capacity for 21,000 people.

A witness who attended the concert said she felt a huge blast as she was leaving the arena, followed by screaming and a rush as thousands of people trying to escape.

WATCH REUTERS TV REPORT ON THE INCIDENT:

“We were making our way out and when we were right by the door there was a massive explosion and everybody was screaming,” concert-goer Catherine Macfarlane told Reuters.

“It was a huge explosion — you could feel it in your chest. It was chaotic. Everybody was running and screaming and just trying to get out.”

Witnesses reported that many children were at the concert.

Manchester Arena, the largest indoor arena in Europe, opened in 1995 and has a capacity for 21,000 people, according to its website. It is a popular concert and sporting venue.

A spokesman for Ariana Grande’s record label said that the singer was “okay”. A video posted on Twitter showed fans screaming and running out of the venue.

Britain is on its second-highest alert level of “severe” meaning an attack by militants is considered highly likely.

Following is a Reuters summary of what is known and not about the incident.

* Death toll: British police said 19 people were killed and 59 people had been treated in hospital. A total of 60 ambulances attended the incident.

Many of the fans at the concert were young people. The blast sparked panic as thousands of people rushed for the exits, witnesses told Reuters.

* US singer Ariana Grande had just finished a concert at the Manchester Arena, the largest indoor arena in Europe that can hold 21,000 people, when the blast occurred.

Grande, 23, later said on Twitter: “broken. from the bottom of my heart, i am so so sorry. i don’t have words.”

* Parents hunted for missing children after the blast. Many turned to social media to seek loved ones.

“Everyone pls share this, my little sister Emma was at the Ari concert tonight in #Manchester and she isn’t answering her phone, pls help me,” said one message posted alongside a picture of a blonde-haired girl with flowers in her hair.

* Police said they were called at 10:33 pm (2133 GMT) after reports of an explosion.

Manchester Chief Constable Ian Hopkins said police were treating the blast as a terrorist incident and were working with counter-terrorism police and intelligence agencies. They gave no further details on their investigation.

* It is unclear where exactly the blast occurred, but initial reports indicated it happened either just outside the Manchester Arena or near a foyer.

It is also unclear whether it was a bomb. Police have so far not said what caused the blast.

* US officials told Reuters that the timing and venue suggested a terror attack, possibly by a suicide bomber.

“This does not appear to have been a carefully planned attack involving multiple actors, extensive surveillance of the target or exotic materials,” said another US official.

“That is what is so worrisome about this kind of thing – how simple it is to indiscriminately kill, wound and terrorize innocent people. With our partners, the US has begun the process of combing through the available intelligence to see if anything was missed.”

* Prime Minister Theresa May said authorities were working to establish the full details of what police were treating as “an appalling terrorist attack.” She said her thoughts were with the victims and the families of those who have been affected.

* What about the June 8 election? PM May’s ruling Conservative Party, which has a big lead in opinion polls, is preparing to suspend election campaigning due to the blast.

* No militant group has claimed responsibility so far but Islamic State supporters celebrated on social media. Twitter accounts affiliated to the militant Islamist group have used hashtags referring to the blast to post celebratory messages, with some users encouraging similar attacks elsewhere.

* The blast occurred on the anniversary of the murder of soldier Lee Rigby, who was hacked to death on a London street on May 22, 2013.

Rigby’s gruesome murder gained international notoriety when Michael Adebolajo was filmed by passers-by standing in the street with blood-soaked hands trying to justify the attack.