Immediately following Ariana Grande‘s Monday (May 22) night concert in Manchester, England, an explosion in the foyer of the Manchester Arena killed at least 22 and injured 59 around 10:30pm local time.
Shortly after that, armed police officers cordoned off the area surrounding the venue while police helicopters circled overhead; stretchers were wheeled into ambulances and sirens filled the air. Fans, some barely into their teens, and parents stood outside the Manchester Arena in a state of stock and confusion. Many were in tears and obvious distressed, milling anxiously outside, either waiting to locate relatives and friends or too stunned to comprehend the extent of the situation.
Survivors spoke of hearing a huge bang moments after Grande’s finale “Dangerous Woman” ended and the house lights came on, and then of hearing people screaming and running out of the building in a panic. Others spoke of seeing people covered in blood. One recalled getting crushed as she tried to get out, only for a stranger to grab her and stop her from falling. Most people Billboard spoke to have described chaos after the explosion.
“I believe there was more than one (explosion),” said one mother, who was at the show with her Ariana Grande ‘superfan” daughter. She described the scene as a “mad, chaotic rush to the nearest exit. Lots of people crying and wailing and just, understandably, (it was) really upsetting for everybody concerned” (see video below). One young fan described the experience as “really scary.”
The explosion happened just after the end of the show, and the location — the foyer just in front of the arena where attendees were exiting — is an area outside the arena’s main security checkpoints. Manchester Arena is connected to Victoria Train station, the second-biggest train station in the city, with the foyer housing the venue’s box office.
Eventually, police moved those outside further from the cordoned-off area and performed two controlled explosions closer to the arena. Authorities set up a special hotline for family members to call for any available information about their loved ones. A woman, distraught, spoke about her granddaughter, who she fears is among the dead. Other parents were overwhelmed with relief to find out their children were okay.
Throughout the night, local taxi companies have been out on the streets offering people free rides to get them home. Nearby residents have also been offering stranded concert-goers rooms for the night and places to stay.
Later at a press conference, Chief Constable Ian Hopkins of the Greater Manchester Police confirmed the explosion was being investigated as an act of terror, and that police had identified a suspect.