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At Manchester Arena, panic among the pink balloons

CLOSE At Manchester Arena, panic among the pink balloons
At Manchester Arena, panic among the pink balloons

At least one explosion at an Ariana Grande concert in the United Kingdom sent terrified fans running for the exits. Police report multiple fatalities. USA TODAY

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A young girl injured at the Ariana Grande concert on May 22, 2017, is helped by medics outside the Manchester Arena. (Photo: Goodman/LNP/REX/Shutterstock, AP)

It was a surreal scene at the Manchester Arena.

Fans, still in the grips of an energetic Ariana Grande concert, spilled out of the U.K. arena Monday night laughing and smiling as the show came to a resounding close. But the happiness turned to horror, witnesses say, when one or two loud bangs rumbled through an area near the arena's bars about 10:35 p.m.

People began scrambling through the exits, many of them young fans, some still clutching pink balloons that had cascaded into the audience moments earlier. Panic and confusion ensued as police and paramedics descended in droves.

"We were making our way out and when we were right by the door there was a massive explosion and everybody was screaming," concertgoer Catherine Macfarlane told Reuters. "It was a huge explosion. You could feel it in your chest. It was chaotic. Everybody was running and screaming and just trying to get out."

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Majik Khan, 22, described the almost instantaneous stampede. “A huge bomb-like bang went off that hugely panicked everyone and we were all trying to flee the arena,” Khan, 22, told Britain’s Press Association. “It was one bang and essentially everyone from the other side of the arena where the bang was heard from suddenly came running toward us as they were trying to exit.”

Added Oliver Jones, 17: “The bang echoed around the foyer of the arena and people started to run.”

At least 22 people were killed and scores were injured in the incident that police said Monday night is believed to be the work of terrorists.

Concertgoer Joe McElhone told CNN his bags were "definitely checked" before entering the arena, although he was not sure whether metal detectors were in use.

Outside the arena, medics tended to the injured, some whose clothes were shredded. There were hugs, tears and stunned looks. Many desperate parents and friends took to social media to search for loved ones they couldn't find.

Dawn Price told The Bolton News, a northwestern England newspaper that's part of the USA TODAY NETWORK, that she was attending the concert with her daughter and their friends. "I'm really shaken and can't process what happened as so many people were there with children," she said. "There was a big bang just as it finished and everyone started to run back into the arena. Then seconds later people started to run back in from another exit."

Gary Walker of Leeds described a grim scene to BBC. Leeds said he and his wife could hear Grande's closing song as they waited for their daughters to exit.

"And then suddenly there was a massive flash and then a bang and smoke. I felt a pain in my foot and

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Manchester Arena terror attack: Death toll climbs to 22

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Police escort members of the public from the Manchester Arena on May 23, 2017 in Manchester, England.

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In wake of blast at Ariana Grande concert, venue safety comes into question

CLOSE In wake of blast at Ariana Grande concert, venue safety comes into question
In wake of blast at Ariana Grande concert, venue safety comes into question

After a fatal explosion at a U.K. Ariana Grande concert at Manchester Arena, the hashtag #RoomforManchester emerged on social media to help people find safety. Wochit

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Concerns over concert safety have risen anew after the attack outside Ariana Grande's concert in Manchester, England. (Photo: Taylor Hill, FilmMagic)

Deadly blasts outside an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England, have renewed concerns about venue safety for entertainers and audiences alike.

At least 22 people died and scores were injured Monday night after one or more  explosions tore through the crowd outside Grande's concert  at Manchester Arena in the U.K.

The blast occurred just before 10:35 p.m. local time as the concert was wrapping up, according to Manchester police. The explosion, which apparently took place in the arena's main corridor, sent panicked fans running for the exits.

The blasts, which are being treated as a terrorist incident, have caused many parents to question: Just how safe are concert venues?

Late Monday, the Department of Homeland Security said there is no evidence of credible threats against music venues in the USA. The department says the U.S. public may experience increased security in and around public places and events.

Here's a look back at what security experts have said through the years.

June 2016

The Grande explosion brought back memories of two stateside attacks last year: In June 2016, an armed assailant opened fire in gay nightclub Pulse Orlando, killing 50 people and wounding 53 in the deadliest shooting spree in U.S. history. Two days prior, former  The Voice contestant Christina Grimmie was shot and killed in a meet-and-greet following a show at Orlando's Plaza Live Theater.

At the time, experts said both the Pulse and Grimmie incidents indicated holes in security.  "What both of these incidents illustrate is that no event is too small and that there are vulnerabilities, regardless of whether these (attacks) are terrorism, hate crimes or someone who is mentally disturbed," said Russ Simons, managing partner at facility management firm Venue Solutions Group. "It's a completely new day in terms of how we have to look at these things."

May 2016

Last May, one person was killed and three were wounded before a T.I. concert at New York's Irving Plaza. Unlike most sports arenas and stadiums, where metal detectors are mandatory, many smaller venues aren't equipped to invest in the screening devices, which typically start at $4,000 to $5,000.

"It's expensive and may be cost-prohibitive for some venues, but the cost of not having (them) is obvious," said Ed McPherson, a Los Angeles entertainment attorney and crisis manager. Concert venues range in capacity from "20 people to 20,000 people, so you can't expect (the smallest) bars to have them. So the question is, at what point do you put them in?"

Club security measures can vary widely depending on the venue and budget, said John White, president of Protection Management LLC in Canton, Ohio. "It depends on the geographical area the venue is in. Is it in a high-crime or high-risk area? These are all things you want to look at to determine what the risk is."

November 2015

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Ariana Grande reaches out after Manchester attack: 'I'm so, so sorry'

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