LONDON — Nineteen people were confirmed dead and some 50 others injured after an explosion at Britain’s Manchester Arena late Monday that was being treated as a “terrorist incident,” police said.
Police were called to reports of an explosion at the venue just before 10:30 p.m. local time near the end of a concert by American singer Ariana Grande, Greater Manchester Police said.
“So far 19 people have been confirmed dead, with around 50 others injured,” the force said in the early hours of Tuesday.
“This is currently being treated as a terrorist incident until police know otherwise.”
The venue’s management said the explosion took place outside the venue as people were leaving the concert, while witnesses quoted by local media said the impact was felt in the main foyer.
“We can confirm there was an incident as people were leaving the Ariana Grande show last night,” Manchester Arena said in a statement on its official Twitter account.
“The incident took place outside the venue in a public space,” it said. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims.”
The police said a “precautionary controlled explosion” was carried out near the venue early Tuesday on a package that was believed to be a suspect device but turned out to be “abandoned clothing, not a suspicious item.”
Witnesses attending the concert said they heard two loud bangs inside the arena.
“A huge bomb-like bang went off that hugely panicked everyone and we were all trying to flee the arena,” 22-year-old Majid Khan told local news agency 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 towards us as they were trying to exit.”
A woman who said she worked at the arena as staff, but did not want to be named, said: “All I know is it sounded like a bomb.”
Although authorities had not yet confirmed the cause of the reported explosion, Liberal Democrat Leader Tim Farron labeled it an attack.
“This is a shocking and horrific attack targeting children and young people who were simply enjoying a concert,” he said.
“My deepest sympathies are with the victims, and with families who have lost loved ones, as well as those desperately waiting for news.”
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn commented on Twitter, saying, “Terrible incident in Manchester. My thoughts are with all those affected and our brilliant emergency services.”
Manchester’s Victoria station, which backs onto the venue, was evacuated and all trains canceled. All approach roads were also closed by police, who told members of the public to avoid the area.
Grande’s representative told U.S. entertainment website Billboard that the singer was “OK.”
Greater Manchester Police said it was setting up a “casualty bureau” for the incident.