23 May 2017

#RoomForManchester: Community opens doors after deadly blast

4:45 pm on 23 May 2017

Desperate parents and friends are using social media to search for loved ones after a blast killed at least 19 people at a British concert by US singer Ariana Grande, with images of happy-looking teenagers posted next to pleas for help.

A British police officer escorts walking casualties away from the Manchester Arena stadium in Manchester, United Kingdom on May 23, 2017.

A British police officer escorts a group of people away from the Manchester Arena after the blast on Tuesday. Photo: AFP

"Everyone pls share this, my little sister Emma was at the Ari concert tonight in #Manchester and she isn't answering her phone, pls help me," said one message posted alongside a picture of a blonde-haired girl, followed by an update one hour later saying she was safe.

Another Twitter user called Erin:P urged people to help him find his sister: "She's wearing a pink sweatshirt and blue jeans. Her name is Whitney."

The blast rocked the foyer of the Manchester Arena as thousands of young fans and parents streamed out of the venue after the show by the US singer, whose fan base is made up largely of teenagers and pre-teens.

Montages of smiling faces were being circulated of teens still unaccounted for after the concert.

Paula Robinson, 48, was at the train station next to the arena with her husband when she felt the explosion and saw dozens of teenage girls screaming and running away from the arena.

"We ran out," she told Reuters. "It was literally seconds after the explosion. I got the teens to run with me."

Ms Robinson took dozens of teenage girls to the nearby Holiday Inn Express hotel and tweeted out her phone number to worried parents telling them to meet her there. She said her phone had not stopped ringing since her tweet.

"Parents were frantic running about trying to get to their children," she said. "There were lots of children at Holiday Inn."

no caption

Photo: Twitter / @gmpolice

Social media posts said the Premier Inn and other Manchester hotels had also thrown their doors open as shelters, with reports of up to 60 children at the Holiday Inn.

In other messages, taxi drivers offered to ferry those who needed to leave the city for free, while the hashtag #RoomForManchester was being used to offer free bedrooms and sofas for anyone stuck in the city.

"I'm 10 mins from Manchester city centre and can give lifts to or from anywhere. Anyone needs help, just let me know. #roomformanchester," wrote a Twitter user called Danny Hutch.

Hundreds of tweets offering places to stay were being shared and re-tweeted thousands of times, the BBC reported.

The Greater Manchester Police said anyone concerned about people at the concert or in the area at the time of the explosion could call them on 0161 856 9400.

- Reuters / BBC / RNZ

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs