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Manchester Arena bombing: Fire services only arrived on scene after two hours, report says

The attack on 22 May saw 22 people killed and hundreds more injured.

Emergency services at the Manchester Arena following the attack
Emergency services at the Manchester Arena following the attack
Image: Peter Byrne via PA Images

A REPORT INTO the Manchester Arena bombing has found that the fire service “played no meaningful role” in the response to the attack for nearly two hours.

The 22 May 2017 terror attack saw 22 people killed and hundreds more injured when a device was detonated in the arena at 10.31pm following an Ariana Grande concert.

The report by Lord Kerslake found that there is not one single reason nor one individual that caused the failure of the Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service (GMFRS), rather it was a combination of poor communication and poor procedures.

The first Northern West Ambulance Service (NWAS) paramedic arrived on scene at 10.42pm and was told the incident was a “suicide bomber” by police.

At 10.47pm, the Greater Manchester Police duty officer declared Operation Plato, a contingency plan for a suspected marauding terrorist firearms attack. At the same time, the force control room received confirmation that an explosion had happened.

The declaration of Operation Plato meant that the force officer was also required to notify 16 other agencies of the declaration of the plan, including GMFRS, NWAS and the military. However, GMFRS and NWAS were not informed of Operation Plato at this time.

A senior fire officer made a decision to keep emergency responders 500 metres away from any danger zone.

The report says it was there was a “real possibility” that had NWAS been notified of Operation Plato, they may have adopted the same procedure as GMFRS and enacted an initial 500-metre exclusion zone.

“This would have slowed the process of casualty triage, treatment and transportation,” the report said.

The fact that the ambulance service was not informed on time was “fortuitous”, it said.

As a result of the delay, GMFRS was “brought to a point of paralysis”, which lasted until 12.21am when pumps were finally deployed to the venue.

The report said that both GMFRS and North West Fire Control felt they had “let down the people of Greater Manchester and other visitors to the city that night”.

Over 50 recommendations were made in the report regarding the response of the emergency services on the night of the attack.

However, it does note that the panel of experts who made the evaluations never set out to answer the question “Would the earlier arrival of GMFRS at the scene have made any difference to the medical outcomes of the injured?”.

“This question lies outside the panel’s terms of reference and belongs to the Coroner alone,” the report said.

Social media criticism

The Kerslake Report also criticises the behaviour of media and journalists on the night of the attack.

“The panel was shocked and dismayed by the accounts of the families of their experience with some of the media,” the report said.

“To have experienced such intrusive and overbearing behaviour at a time of enormous vulnerability seemed to us to be completely unacceptable.

“We were concerned to identify what might be done to prevent this happening again in any future terrorist event.”

Most people who commented on their experience of the media in the attack said they had a negative one, the report said.

People talked about feeling “hounded” and “bombarded”.

The report described families at the hospitals looking for missing loved ones had to force their way through scrums of reporters “who wouldn’t take no for an answer”.

One mother, who was herself seriously injured as was her daughter, spoke of the press ringing her on her mobile whilst she was recovering in hospital.

The report recommends that the Independent Press Standards Organisation should review the operation of its code in light of the experiences described and consider developing a new code specifically to cover such events.

Read: Manchester attack ‘hero’ jailed for stealing from victims

More: Almost 2,000 teddy bears left as tributes to Manchester bomb victims to be given to charities

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