At least 22 people, including children, have been killed in a suspected terror attack at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester.
At time of writing, 59 people were being treated for injuries from the blast, which has been dubbed “the most deadly attack in Britain in a decade” and labelled by police as a “suicide” attack.
Home Secretary Amber Rudd described it as “a barbaric attack, deliberately targeting some of the most vulnerable in society”.
British Transport Police said the explosion – which happened at 10.35pm, shortly after the concert came to a close – was in the arena's foyer, which connects with Victoria train and tram station, a major hub on the northern edge of the city centre.
Reports say some initially thought that the loud bang, moments after a score of pink balloons were released into the audience and the lights had come up following a final encore, could somehow have been part of the show’s finale.
Grande’s fanbase is largely children and teenage girls, and a number of young people became separated from their parents in the chaos, with many parents waiting outside the venue to pick up the, up after the concert.
Ian Hopkins, chief constable Greater Manchester police confirmed on Tuesday (23 May) that attack was a suicide bombing, and that the man responsible is among the dead.
According to Financial Times, he said: “The attacker, I can confirm, died at the arena. We believe the attacker was carrying an improvised explosive device which he detonated, causing this atrocity.
“The priority is to establish whether he was acting alone or was part of a network.”
Greater Manchester Police has established an emergency telephone number in response to the attack: 0161 856 9400.
Hopkins added: “This has been the most horrific incident we have had to face in Greater Manchester and one that we all hoped we would never see.
“Families and many young people were out to enjoy a concert at the Manchester Arena and have lost their lives.”
North West Ambulance Service said it had taken 59 casualties from the explosion to hospitals and treated a number of walking wounded on scene.
The attack comes less than three weeks before Britain’s general election; political parties have suspended campaigning as a mark of respect.
Britain’s Prime Minister, Theresa May, has announced she will chair a meeting of the government's emergency Cobra committee at around 9am.
She said: “We are working to establish the full details of what is being treated by the police as an appalling terrorist attack.
“All our thoughts are with the victims and the families of those who have been affected.”
Jeremy Corbyn, the head of the Labour party, added: “I am horrified by the horrendous events in Manchester last night. My thoughts are with families and friends of those who have died and been injured.
“Today the whole country will grieve for the people who have lost their lives.”
Corbyn continued: “I have spoken with Andy Burnham, the Metro Mayor of Greater Manchester, who has fully briefed me on the operational response in the city.
“I would like to pay tribute to the emergency services for their bravery and professionalism in dealing with last night’s appalling events.”
Burnham added: “My heart goes out to families who have lost loved ones, my admiration to our brave emergency services.
“A terrible night for our great city.”
23-year-old Grande, who was ushered out of the arena shortly after the attack occurred, has since taken to Twitter to reveal that the incident had left her “broken”.
“From the bottom of my heart, I am so, so sorry,” continued Grande. “I don't have words.”
If you are concerned about loved ones caught up in the incident in Manchester, the emergency number to call is 0161 856 9400.
Images: Rex Features