Our Prayers are with the Victims of Boston Marathon
By FT reporters
At least two people were killed and more than 20 were injured, some seriously, as two explosions rocked the Boston Marathon finishing line on Monday, as hundreds of thousands of people thronged the city’s streets for the race.
Onlookers posted pictures on Twitter showing blood on sidewalks beside the finishing line on Boylston Street in the city centre, with people lying on the ground. According to local media, emergency personnel carried out a controlled detonation of a suspicious package afterwards.
Shortly after the explosion, workers speaking over the Boston city emergency radio system expressed fears about suspect packages near the scene and an unaccompanied vehicle. They asked for all police officers not needed on Boylston Street to go into side streets in case of further explosions.
“We need the ambulances off Boylston,” the person said. “Officers, go down side streets, away from harm’s way. There are several suspect packages still on Boylston.”
The route of the marathon runs through Boston area universities, and for large sections of the race students were standing four-deep to watch the runners. Officials were deciding whether to lock down the universities and were encouraging students to clear the streets.
Emergency personnel ushered spectators and runners into stores and restaurants lining the route. They were later guided out through back alleys. One worker who was heard on Boston’s emergency channels said his staff were sweeping the area for suspicious packages.
Boston had been enjoying a state holiday with schools and government offices closed.
President Barack Obama was being kept aware of the situation, White House officials said, as security was tightened in other US cities. The area in front of the White House was also cleared, according to a report on CNN.
Paul J Browne, Deputy Commissioner at New York City Police Department, said: “We’re stepping up security at hotels and other prominent locations in the city through deployment of the NYPD’s critical response vehicles until more about the explosion is learnt.”
Adriana Piekarewicz, a runner from Tallahassee, Florida, completed the race and was at the nearby Fairmont Copley Plaza hotel. She described hearing two explosions just before 3pm eastern time and shortly afterwards seeing people with severe injuries at the finish line.
She said within 15 minutes the Fairmont Copley hotel was locked down and people were not permitted to leave it.
One woman visiting Boston from London with her husband, who was competing, was just about to cross the finish line when windows blew out from the explosion.
“There have been horrific injuries and he was very lucky to have escaped it,” she said.
A White House official said that, shortly after being notified of the incident around 3pm eastern time, President Obama had received a briefing from Lisa Monaco, his Homeland Security adviser, and other members of his senior White House staff.
“The President called Boston Mayor Tom Menino and Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick to express his concern for those who were injured and to make clear that his administration is ready to provide needed support as they respond to the incident,” the official said.
People were being evacuated from the scene by foot on a bridge across Massachusetts Avenue, local media reported. Individual runners’ belongings, stored near the finish line, were having to be searched to ensure they contained nothing suspicious, they also reported.
Reporting by Robert Wright, Arash Massoudi, Johanna Kassel, Kara Scannell and Anjli Raval