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Loud Bangs Triggered Rush For The Exit In Deadly Incident At English Concert


We're going to hear more detail now about the attack on a pop concert in Manchester, England. Police have reported at least 19 dead and upwards of 50 people injured after explosions went off just outside the arena there.

For more detail, we're going to turn to Steve Saul of BBC News Manchester. And Steve, first just set the scene for us. It's late in the evening. This concert given by the pop star - American pop star Ariana Grande is actually over, right? And then people report hearing explosions.

STEVE SAUL: Yes, that's right. The concert finished around about 10:30 this evening in Manchester as the crowds were heading out of the arena. Then there was the large explosion, and we believe the explosion was taking place in the foyer of the Manchester Arena concert venue. This is one the largest concert venues in the northwest of England. It's got a capacity of 21,000 people - can be seated at the arena. As you rightly say, they were there watching the American pop star Ariana Grande, a pop concert - lots of young children there this evening.

So as people were leaving the concert, which did overrun tonight - thousands of people leaving the arena. And if you've been to an arena of this size, any stadium, you'll know sometimes how busy and rushed it can be trying to get out of the arena. So then...

CORNISH: Right. On the videos online, we are seeing this combination of pink balloons - right? - from the show and also panic.

SAUL: That's right 'cause there was confusion 'cause the initial reports were saying that an amplifier on the stage had exploded, and then they - that noise amplified through the microphones of the sound system at the arena, then caused that initial panic - but people believing the incident was actually inside the main hall of the concert venue. But in fact, as we were hearing from one of the eyewitnesses that has been speaking to our colleagues on BBC Radio Manchester, she was waiting for her two teenage children, and then she saw the blast take place in the foyer. Now, she explained to my colleagues that while there was a rigorous security procedure for people entering inside the venue, there's no such security on the gate once they're open after the concert finishes 'cause obviously many people want to get out all in a hurry to get to the places that they're going.

So they believe that this incident happened at the point that the doors opened. But this is yet to be confirmed by Greater Manchester Police, who are now working with the northwest region of England counterterrorism unit and Scotland Yard - their terrorist investigation teams.

CORNISH: Right. Prime Minister Theresa May has said - beyond saying that her thoughts are with the victims and families of those affected - but she called it what's being treated as an appalling terrorist attack. And I understand the police at some point in the night were also doing controlled detonations. What was going on there?

SAUL: Yes, there was a controlled explosion carried out in another part of Manchester City Centre next to Manchester Cathedral. There's an area called Cathedral Gardens. There was some concern about an item there. But it later turned out to be some abandoned clothing - so thankfully nothing sinister there. You rightly say that Theresa May issued a statement. It is of course the middle of the night here in the U.K.

It's just approaching 3 a.m. in the morning - so just a small statement at the moment from Theresa May and also the leader of the opposition, Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour Party. We are of course in the middle of a general election. We're hearing that campaigning in that general election campaign has been suspended for today, Tuesday, and we'll expect to hear more from our prime minister, Theresa May, in the morning as she's going to chair a special security meeting at Downing Street at 9 o'clock in the morning. That's called a Cobra meeting. Cobra is a cabinet meeting that gets the other top-ranking officials to discuss events in times of national crisis, of which this is one.

CORNISH: Steve Saul of the BBC News in Manchester speaking to us about the attack there. Thank you so much for the update. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Frank Langfitt is NPR's London correspondent. He covers the UK and Ireland, as well as stories elsewhere in Europe.