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22 dead in bomb blast at Ariana Grande show in Manchester

By | Published on Tuesday 23 May 2017

Manchester Arena

A suicide bomb attack at the conclusion of an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester last night has left at least 22 people dead and 59 injured. Police have said that the bomb was detonated by a man who also died in the blast.

The blast occurred in the foyer area of the Manchester Arena just before 10.35pm, shortly after Grande had left the stage. Eye-witnesses interviewed by the BBC have spoken of a blast and flash of fire, causing glass to shatter and the whole building to shake.

One man, who had just arrived at the arena to pick up his wife and daughter, spoke about how the blast threw him about 30 feet, from one set of doors to another. “When I got up I saw bodies lying on the ground”, he added. “My first thought was to go into the arena to try to find my family”.

Panic ensued as audience members rushed to exit the building in the wake of the blast. The Manchester Arena has a capacity of 21,000 and, with Grande playing there last night, there was a particularly high number of teenagers and children in the audience. Emergency services told reporters that they had taken 59 casualties from the incident to local hospitals, while treating others onsite, including for “shrapnel-like injuries”.

The Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police, Ian Hopkins, said in a statement: “This has been the most horrific incident we have had to face in Greater Manchester and one that we all hoped we would never see. Families and many young people were out to enjoy a concert at the Manchester Arena and have lost their lives. Our thoughts are with those 22 victims that we now know have died, the 59 people who have been injured and their loved ones. We continue to do all we can to support them”.

On the investigation his force has now launched, he added: “We have been treating this as a terrorist incident and we believe, at this stage, the attack last night was conducted by one man. The priority is to establish whether he was acting alone or as part of a network. The attacker, I can confirm, died at the arena. We believe the attacker was carrying an improvised explosive device which he detonated causing this atrocity. We would ask people not to speculate on his details or to share names”.

Hopkins added: “There is a complex and wide ranging investigation underway. Our priority is to work with the National Counter Terrorist Policing Network and UK intelligence services to establish more details about the individual who carried out this attack. We have received tremendous support from across the police services and partner agencies throughout the night”.

Both the music and political communities expressed their shock and condolences last night and this morning, the latter group confirming that general election campaigning would be suspended for today following the attack.

The recently elected mayor of Greater Manchester, former MP Andy Burnham, told reporters: “It is hard to believe what has happened here in the last few hours and to put into words the shock, anger and hurt that we feel today. These were children, young people and their families that those responsible chose to terrorise and kill. This was an evil act”.

He added: “Our first thoughts are with the families of those killed and injured and we will do whatever we can to support them. We are grieving today but we are strong. Today it will be business as usual as far as possible in our great city. I want to thank the hundreds of police, fire and ambulance staff who worked through the night in the most difficult circumstances imaginable”.

Grande wrote on Twitter after the attack: “Broken. From the bottom of my heart, I am so so sorry. I don’t have words”. Her management subsequently issued a statement stating that “words cannot express our sorrow for the victims and families harmed in this senseless attack”.

The statement went on: “We mourn the lives of children and loved ones taken by this cowardly act. We are thankful for the selfless service tonight of Manchester’s first responders who rushed towards danger to help save lives. We ask all of you to hold the victims, their families, and all those affected in your hearts and prayers”.

Among the music industry organisations to comment this morning was cross-sector trade group UK Music. Its new CEO Michael Dugher said: “Our thoughts and prayers go out to all those affected by this horrific attack. It is even more distressing that children and teenagers have been targeted. We owe a huge debt of gratitude to our brave emergency services and the venue staff. We know venues take security very seriously and do all they can to minimise risks, including training staff how to deal with major incidents. As a result of police investigations there will no doubt be a further review of these measures”.

The live music industry has long known that its venues and events could be targets for those considering terrorist attacks, and even more so since the attack on the Bataclan venue in Paris in November 2015. Security measures are therefore already in place, and even more so at bigger venues, though those will no doubt be heightened in the wake of last night’s bombing.

Despite that knowledge, and seeing regular reports of terrorist attacks around the world, incidents like this one – on home turf, in a popular venue, at a setting as familiar as a pop concert – seem particularly shocking from a UK and music community perspective. Supporting those directly affected is obviously everyone’s top priority, beyond which the music community, like the people of Manchester, will endeavour to continue as normal.

As Dugher concluded in his statement: “Music has the power to bring people together and is so often a celebration of peace and love. We will not let terrorism and the politics of violence, hatred and division conquer that spirit”.