People from Morecambe and Lancaster have told of their escape from a horrifying bomb blast in Manchester.
Twenty-two people, including children, were killed and 59 injured in the suicide attack at Manchester Arena on Monday night.
People fled the 21,000 capacity venue after an explosion at 10.35pm at the end of a concert by American singer Ariana Grande.
Many people from our area were at the concert, including Heysham teenager Rachel Simpson, who posted afterwards on Facebook to reassure loved ones that she was safe.
Ella Donnelly, 17, from Lancaster, was there with a friend. Both escaped unhurt.
Miss Donnelly said: “We heard a loud bang and then another bang. Everyone panicked.”
Cath Hill from Lancaster, who attended the concert with her 10-year-old son Jake, told BBC Radio Five Live: “We were incredibly lucky. We weren’t involved in the centre of it. I am so desperately sad for those that didn’t manage to come home from the concert.”
Greater Manchester Police confirmed the lone male attacker, who died in the blast, was a suicide bomber and detonated an improvised explosive device.
Police believe they know the identity of the attacker.
Victims relatives are using social media to hunt for missing loved ones, and an emergency number, 0161 856 9400, has been set up.
Children have now left the nearby Holiday Inn, which was set up as a safe meeting point after the blast.
Around 60 ambulances attended the incident and those injured are being treated at eight hospitals in the area. Chief Executive of North West Ambulance Service, Derek Cartwright said: “The Service is devastated by the attack in Manchester last night. We would like to offer our sincere condolences to those who lost loved ones and wish those in hospital a speedy and full recovery.
“We were made aware of the incident at 10.46pm and soon after declared a ‘major incident’. Our staff worked tirelessly throughout the night to coordinate the large scale response with 60 ambulances attending the horrifying scene in the city.
“Ambulance crews were accompanied by our hazardous area response teams, consultant paramedics, advanced paramedics and doctors who all offered their advanced clinical skills. We are extremely proud of the professional way our staff responded and treated those involved.
“In total, our clinicians treated and took 59 patients to hospital and approximately 60 ‘walking wounded’ were also treated by our crews but did not go to hospital.
“No matter how much we train our staff for incidents such as this, nothing can prepare you for the shock and sadness when tragedies like this occur. This is, indeed, a very sad time for Manchester.
“We would like to convey our thanks to our colleagues in West Midlands, Wales, Yorkshire and East Midlands ambulance services who provided mutual aid so we could continue reaching patients who needed our help in our communities.
“Finally, the co-operation of the public has been very gratefully received. We had many messages throughout the night from people volunteering their services, blankets, first aid skills and tea. It was extremely heart-warming to receive such messages and demonstrates how a city can pull together during these difficult times.
“We would also like to thank the public for being patient with us yesterday as we attended the incident and would like to assure people that as always we are available to anyone who urgently needs our help.”
Mike Adamson, Chief Executive of the British Red Cross said: “British Red Cross staff and volunteers are providing practical and emotional support to people affected by last night’s attack at a reception centre at the Etihad stadium in Manchester.
“We are also providing ambulance support to local hospitals.
“We are on standby to provide additional support to the emergency response as needed, and we are in regular contact with the Local Authority.
“Our hearts go out to the families and friends of those affected by this terrible attack.”
NHS Blood Donation said: “We are responding to last night’s tragic incident in Manchester.
“Our thoughts are with the people affected by this tragic incident. We do have all the blood required for hospital patients at the present time.
“If you have an appointment to give blood in the next few days, please do your best to keep it, particularly if you are blood group O negative.”
An NSPCC spokesman said: “We are deeply saddened to learn of the devastating terror attack in Manchester. Our thoughts are with the victims and families of those who have been affected.
“Our advice for any child or teenager upset and anxious in light of this news is for them to talk to a trusted adult, be it a parent, teacher or Childline.”
Children and young people can contact Childline for free, confidential support and advice, 24 hours a day on 0800 1111 or at www.childline.org.uk
The NSPCC has published advice to help parents talk to their children about terrorism:
• Listen carefully to a child’s fears and worries
• Offer reassurance and comfort and avoid complicated and worrying explanations that could leave them more frightened and confused.
• Help them find advice and support to understand distressing events and feelings.
• Children can always contact Childline free and confidentially 24/7
If you’re worried about a child you can contact the NSPCC Helpline to talk to trained practitioners for 24/7 help, support and advice on 0808 800 5000 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
A spokesman at University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust said: “Our thoughts are with the victims & families of last night’s attack in Manchester & we pay tribute to those working to help those affected.”
The Anglican Bishops from The Church of England’s Diocese of Blackburn have issued a joint statement this morning following the Manchester Arena attack.
Rev Julian Henderson, Bishop of Blackburn; the Rt Rev. Geoff Pearson, Bishop of Lancaster and the Rt Rev. Philip North, Bishop of Burnley, said the following:
“We are shocked and appalled by the news of the attack at the Manchester Arena. To target an event attended by so many children and young people is barbaric beyond words or belief.
“Our thoughts at this time are with all the victims and most especially those who are unsure about the whereabouts or safety of their loved ones.
“Many of the Churches of Lancashire are about to enter a time of prayer for our nation under the title, ‘Thy Kingdom Come’.
“We therefore commit ourselves to deep and heartfelt prayer for all caught up in this terrible incident.
“We will not only pray that the Kingdom values of justice, love and peace might transform the hearts of all who would sow hatred and fear but will also commit ourselves afresh to action to building a world that reflects those values.
“People from parishes across Lancashire will be coming to Blackburn Cathedral tomorrow evening, May 24, at 7.30pm for our ‘Thy Kingdom Come’ beacon launch event.
“We will now make time during this service to offer prayers for the victims of the Manchester attack and anyone who wishes to join us as we offer these prayers is welcome to do so.”
Prime minister Theresa May has chaired a meeting of the government’s emergency Cobra committee.
She said in a statement it was the worst attack ever to hit the north of England.
General election campaigning was also suspended on Tuesday.
The army have been sent to Heysham Power Station on this afternoon (Wednesday) after the national terror threat level was raised to critical.
Officers from the Civil Nuclear Constabulary (CNC) based at the power station were deployed elsewhere in the country, as part of a government-led operation, following the attack in Manchester on Monday night.
The army’s arrival supported the movement of the CNC officers.
The Union Flag is flying at half-mast from Lancaster and Morecambe town halls as a mark of respect to all those affected by yesterday’s events in Manchester.
The Right Worshipful the Mayor of Lancaster, Coun Roger Mace, said: “I have already met someone whose friend was at the arena last night, and my thoughts are with all the people whose lives have been affected by the tragedy.
“The support offered at the scene of the incident by the emergency services and the citizens of Manchester who rushed to the aid of the lost and wounded is a reminder of the true spirit of the British people.”
A vigil for those in Lancaster to stand in solidarity with Manchester after the terror attack was held on Tuesday evening, and further vigils will be held at Lancaster Priory and Lancaster University tonight, Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Lancashire residents are being reminded of the support available to those affected by the devastating terror attack in Manchester.
Following the tragedy Police and Crime Commissioner Clive Grunshaw wants to highlight the services commissioned by his office, available to Lancashire’s victims of crime.
It is available for those who have been affected by what they have seen or having family or friends caught up in the incident.
Mr Grunshaw said: “Last night saw a cowardly and vile attack on crowds of mostly young people leaving a concert at Manchester Arena. All our thoughts are with the victims, their families and friends who have been affected by this horrific act of violence and terror.
“We are aware that many young victims are from Lancashire who will have travelled, some with friends and family, to Manchester for a night of live music and entertainment. Tragically we have already seen that some of the casualties are from our communities.
“Those caught up in this devastating attack will be deeply affected by their experiences and what they have seen. I want to reassure people that the support they may need is available now and will be there whenever they are ready for it.
“Lancashire Victim Services can provide support to those affected and their families. I would urge anyone caught up in the attack to get in touch. The service is here for you with trained staff on hand to talk, to listen and to offer help and advice.
“For young people in particular we have Nest Lancashire, a dedicated service that focuses on providing specialist support, advice and counselling for children and young people affected by crime. You can talk to them in confidence and all of our services are completely confidential and free of charge.”
More to come.