At least 19 people have been killed and another 50 injured after an explosion at the Manchester Arena in northern England, where U.S. pop star Ariana Grande was wrapping up a performance.
Police say they were called around 10:35 p.m. local time following reports of an explosion at the venue, which has a capacity of about 21,000.
They say they are treating it as a “terrorist incident” as they investigate. The explosion took place outside the venue in a public place, according to a statement on the Manchester Arena’s Twitter account.
Latest statement on incident at Manchester Arena pic.twitter.com/BEpLOan3dY
Grande tweeted several hours later that she is “broken. From the bottom of my heart, I am so so sorry. I don’t have words.”
A witness who attended the concert said she felt a huge blast as she was leaving the arena, which was followed by screaming and a chaotic rush, as thousands of people tried to flee the scene.
“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.
from the bottom of my heart, i am so so sorry. i don’t have words.
“A huge bomb-like bang went off — that hugely panicked everyone and we were all trying to flee the arena,” another concert-goer, Majid Khan, told Britain’s Press Association. “It was one bang and essentially everyone from the other side of the arena, where the bang was heard from, suddenly came running toward us as they were trying to exit.”
Added 17-year-old Oliver Jones: “The bang echoed around the foyer of the arena and people started to run.”
Emergency vehicles were on the scene helping the injured and bomb disposal units were later seen outside the venue.
Several witnesses, while speaking to the BBC, reported glass shattering and the whole building shaking from an explosion.
Many described bloodied and injured people, and a panic as concert-goers fled the venue.
Police advised the public to avoid the area around the arena, and the train station near the arena, Victoria Station, was evacuated and all trains cancelled.
People ‘stampeding out’
Jess Kelly, 22, and her friend were at the concert.
“We were about to go down the stairwell into the concession area where it happened and we heard the explosion, everybody turned to the left, screamed and started running,” she told CBC’s Carole MacNeil.
She and her friend went back to the main concert arena to try to get away from the mass of people that were “stampeding out” of the building.
She said they were some of the last people out of the building.
“As soon as we left, we saw police everywhere and ambulances, people just around bleeding and it was really, really bad.”
She says she and her friend are very shaken up.
“It just seems too random to have happened accidentally and it happened exactly when the concert ended and right at the end when everyone was leaving and everyone was crowded into a small area trying to get out of the doors,” said Kelly.
A spokesperson for the pop singer said: “Ariana is okay. We are further investigating what happened.”
Many of Grande’s fans are young women and girls.
U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May said she’s working to get the full details “of what is being treated by the police as an appalling terrorist attack.”
Hotels open doors as shelters
Paula Robinson, 48, was at the train station next to the arena with her husband when she felt the explosion and saw dozens of teenage girls screaming and running away from the arena.
“We ran out,” she told Reuters. “It was literally seconds after the explosion. I got the teens to run with me.”
Robinson took dozens of teenage girls to the nearby Holiday Inn Express hotel and tweeted out her phone number to worried parents telling them to meet her there. She said her phone had not stopped ringing since her tweet.
“Parents were frantic running about trying to get to their children,” she said. “There were lots of children at Holiday Inn.”
Social media posts said the Premier Inn and other Manchester hotels had also thrown their doors open as shelters.
In other messages, taxi drivers offered to ferry those who needed to leave the city for free, while the hashtag #RoomForManchester was being used to offer free bedrooms and sofas for anyone stuck in the city.
Many used social media to search for loved ones still unaccounted for after the blast.
This is Grande’s third concert tour, and supports her album Dangerous Woman.
Grande’s role as Cat Valentine on Nickelodeon’s high school sitcom Victorious propelled her to teen idol status, starting in 2010. The 23-year-old Grande, with her signature high ponytail, went on to also star in spinoffs that included iCarly, as she worked to develop her recording career.
The tour began in Phoenix in February. After Manchester, Grande was to perform at venues in Europe, including Belgium, Poland, Germany, Switzerland and France, with concerts in Latin America and Asia to follow.