Scarborough people at the horror attack in Manchester have spoken of how they are “lucky to be alive”.
At least 22 people have been killed, including an eight-year-old girl, and dozens injured after a blast went off at around 10.30pm following an Ariana Grande concert.
Psychology student Chloe Smith, 20, of Pinewood Drive, said: “We left midway through the last song because we had a train to catch at 10.42pm. We went through the exit which leads to the car park and then walked around the arena.
“We were outside the main entrance at the station steps when we heard a huge bang.
“Everyone froze and then I heard people crying and running towards us so we just did the same.
“I was scared so we just kept running and got as far from the arena as we could.
“We didn’t exactly know what happened so we were grabbing people and asking them what had happened.
“I saw children crying and parents just distraught.
“Then we had police, ambulances and bomb disposal units racing to the arena.”
Officers are treating the bombing as an act of terrorism and on Tuesday afternoon the Islamic State group claimed responsibility.
Police believe the attacker, named as 22-year-old Salman Abedi, was carrying an improvised explosive device while officers are still to establish if he was acting alone or as part of a network.
Police arrested three men in connection with the Manchester attack on Wednesday morning.
Max Smith, 21, was with cousin Lee Bettinson, 27, at the concert and were heading for the exit when they heard the “loud bang”.
Max, a Next sales assistant of Scalby Road, said: “We just looked at each other and then a sea of people came running towards us screaming.
“We saw smoke and knew something terrible had happened and we ran up to the top of the arena and stayed put.
“When we got out we just saw people crying, hugging and people just in disbelief.
“We ran away and got as far as possible and I called my mum, who had no idea what had happened.”
Lee, from Teesside, said: “My first impression was that it was a gun at first so I was thinking there could be someone on the loose with a weapon.
“Then I thought it must have been a bomb or something like that which made me panic even more because for all we knew there could have been more in the arena and we could’ve been next to one.
“I did think ‘is this it?’”
The UK official threat level from international terrorism was raised on Tuesday from severe to critical – meaning an attack is “expected imminently”. This is the first time in 10 years that it has been raised to this level.
Chloe, who is studying at Leeds Trinity University, said people were taking shelter in hotels just to get off the street.
The former Graham School student added: “It’s one of those things you just never expect to happen to you, especially at an Ariana Grande concert full of children and families. I feel extremely lucky.
“If we had chosen to go through the other exit then we could well have been in the blast zone.
“I’m still in shock but I am just relieved we got out safe.
“I feel awful for all the people who have been killed or injured and also their families too.”
Whitby worker Nathan Cowey, 21, was also caught up in the attack and said he was “terrified” and that he hadn’t slept since.
The operators of Scarborough’s Open Air Theatre have said that shows will go ahead as planned following the Manchester attack.
The summer season started last night with The Beach Boys, with the Kaiser Chiefs to follow on Saturday.
A spokesman for Cuffe and Taylor, concert promoters at Scarborough Open Air Theatre, said: “Our thoughts are with those who lost their lives, those who were injured and all their family and friends following the devastating attack in Manchester, as well as the emergency services working tirelessly to keep us safe in all that we do.
“The shows this week at Scarborough Open Air Theatre will go ahead as planned, and we are continually liaising with our venue security and local police to ensure the safety of our customers.
“We are certain we will not be defeated by such cowardice.”
The venue’s social media activity was kept silent for 48 hours after the attack as a mark of respect.
A JustGiving fundraising page has been set up to help support the families in the aftermath of the attack with more than £1m collected so far. People can donate at http://bit.ly/2rLmRmc