A Wigan schoolgirl caught up in the Manchester Arena bomb outrage has told of her distress as she and a friend fled the carnage.
Lucie O’Mara spoke just hours after a suicide bomber blew himself up in the city venue’s foyer at the end of an Ariana Grande concert.
Lucie and fellow Up Holland High School pupil Millie Howarth were preparing to leave when a huge blast rocked the building at around 10.30pm on Monday.
She spoke of the initial confusion, then panic, a stampede for the exits and the scenes of horror and confusion outside, with bloodied casualties treated all around her and distraught members of the public frantically searching for their loved ones.
The 16-year-olds, thankfully, escaped unscathed but there were 20 minutes after the blast when Lucie’s mum Gill, who had come to collect them, feared the worst before they were reunited.
Lucie said: “I still can’t get my head round it. The image that sticks in my head is of a woman running up to everyone, complete strangers, outside the arena, really distressed, asking if anyone had seen her daughter.
“It all happened so quickly. The show had finished and the lights came up and people were standing up to leave when there was this huge ‘boom.’
“We assumed it was a bomb from the start and the stage managers shouted for everyone to run. Everyone was screaming and running as fast as they could. Because we were on a lower tier, we had to go up stairs before we could go down for the exits.
“Outside there were a lot of people injured and ambulances were everywhere. There were people on the floor with bandages and blood and a lot of screaming from people who had lost their children.
“There was woman near the park with her face full of blood.
I still can’t get my head round it. The image that sticks in my head is of a woman running up to everyone, complete strangers, outside the arena, really distressed, asking if anyone had seen her daughterLucie O’Mara
“At first what had happened didn’t really sink in but when I got out I had a panic attack and cried a lot.”
Twenty-two people were killed and some 59 people were also injured in the blast when the attacker detonated an improvised explosive device.
Announcing that the death toll had risen overnight, Greater Manchester Police chief constable Ian Hopkins said: “What I can confirm is that there are children among the deceased.”
He said: “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.”
Mr Hopkins said investigators believed the attack was c onducted by one man who died at the scene, although detectives are working to establish if he “was acting alone or as part of a network”.
Police were called to reports of an explosion at the Manchester Arena at 10.33pm, shortly after US singer Ariana Grande had finished her performance.
More than 240 calls were made to the emergency services, with responders including 60 ambulances flooding the area.
Around 400 police officers were deployed as part of the operation, with a visible presence remaining on the streets of Manchester on Tuesday.
The injured are being treated at hospitals across Greater Manchester, and a hotline has been set up for those with concerns over loved ones who remain unaccounted for.
Police have appealed for concert-goers and witnesses to provide them with any footage they have from the scene if they believe it can assist the probe.
Oliver Jones, 17, who attended with his 19-year-old sister, said: “The bang echoed around the foyer of the arena and people started to run.
“I seen people running and screaming towards one direction and then many were turning around to run back the other way.”
Wigan actress Kym Marsh wrote on twitter: I cannot believe what is happening. Praying for the people who lost their lives tonight in Manchester. Thoughts are with their families x
Fellow Coronation Street actor Georgia Taylor said: “My heart is broken this morning. I love you Manchester and last night you proved you have the biggest kindest heart Xxx