POLICE have confirmed that people have died and been injured after an “explosion” at Manchester Arena sent thousands of terrified concertgoers fleeing an Ariana Grande concert.
Witnesses on social media have reported hearing a “massive bang” before screaming crowds rushed out of the venue with police confirming an explosion in the foyer area.
As bomb squads were called to the scene Greater Manchester Police said: “Emergency services are currently responding to reports of an explosion at Manchester Arena. There are a number of confirmed fatalities and others injured.
“Please AVOID the area as first responders work tirelessly at the scene. Details of a casualty bureau will follow as soon as available.”
British Transport Police have confirmed the explosion went off in the foyer area of the stadium at about 10.30pm adding that emergency services are working to establish the cause.
Shocking pictures and video footage have shown the bloodied injured leaving the 21,000 capacity arena as passers-by rushed to try and help.
Unconfirmed reports from NHS sources have said the injuries seen suggest the explosion could have been caused by a nail bomb.
Social media users have reported seeing multiple arrests around the city, but police have not confirmed if these are linked to the incident.
Manchester’s Victoria Station, which backs onto the arena, has been evacuated and all trains cancelled as emergency services respond.
Courtney Spencer, a 17-year-old student who was at the concert with a pal, told The Sun: “It happened just in front of us at the top of the stairs. We didn’t know what had happened. It could have been a gun or a bang or an explosion.
“We just grabbed each other and got away. One lass was laying in her mother’s arms. I’m not sure if she has collapsed in shock or was injured.”
Chris Parker, 33, was walking through the station towards the box office when one explosion went off.
He said he saw at least six people seriously injured on the floor and told The Sun: “I was walking through and one huge bang went off.
“There was nuts and bolts flying everywhere, and also human flesh. It was just one bang and a white flash. I treated a woman called Pauline. I’ve got blood on my hands. It was like a war zone inside where the box office is.
“There looked to be at least six people potentially fatally wounded. I saw one woman’s leg off. It is mayhem.”
Concertgoer Majid Khan, 22, added: “I and my sister, along with a lot of others were seeing Ariana Grande perform at Manchester Arena, and we were all exiting the venue when around 10.40-10.45pm-ish a huge bomb-like bang went off that hugely panicked everyone and we were all trying to flee the arena.
“It was one bang and essentially everyone from the other side of the arena where the bang was heard from suddenly came running towards us as they were trying to exit Trinity Way and that was blocked so everyone was just running to any exit they could find as quickly as they could.
“Everyone was in a huge state of panic, calling each other as some had gone to the toilet whilst this had gone off, so it was just extremely disturbing for everyone there.”
Concertgoers are seen fleeing the venue through the streets of Manchester tonight
Witness Sasina Akhta told the Manchester Evening News: “She did her last song, we were in the lower tier and there was an explosion behind us at the back of the arena. We saw young girls with blood on them, everyone was screaming and people were running. There was lots of smoke.”
A spokesman for Ariana Grande has confirmed that the singer was unhurt.
Vera Yorke said her daughter and granddaughter had gone to leave the concert early and been caught up in the chaos that followed the blast.
She said: “My daughter and granddaughter were there when the bang went off. Home now, but her ears are still ringing from it. She kept hold of her daughter so to keep her safe as she’s arthritic, but was bleeding as being knocked onto the stairs in a panic by folk running past her.”
A Twitter user said: “Everyone screamed and ran out I’ve never been so scared in my life.”
Another added: “Just got out of Manchester arena after seeing Ariana perform. There was a loud bang when the lights came on & everyone ran out screaming.”
Politicians have reacted to tonight’s shocking scenes.
Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said: “This is a shocking and horrific attack targeting children and young people who were simply enjoying a concert.
“My deepest sympathies are with the victims, and with families who have lost loved ones, as well as those desperately waiting for news.
” I would like to pay tribute to the bravery and dedication of the emergency services.
“This is an attack on innocent people and the nation is united both in its grief and its determination to stand up to this kind of deplorable attack.”
Actress Julie Hesmondhalgh, who played Hayley in Coronation Street, was among those tweeting asking for information with her daughter and husband caught up in the chaos.
She said: “My husband and daughter safe but what is happening at MEN please? They were told mass panic after loud noise that wasn’t explosion.”
Others have turned to social media in a bid to check on relatives with a Holiday Inn in the city taking in unaccompanied children.
More to follow.