Home Secretary Amber Rudd said it was “a barbaric attack, deliberately targeting some of the most vulnerable in our society”.

Relatives are using social media to hunt for missing loved ones, including children, caught up in the incident.

North West Ambulance Service said it was treating a number of walking wounded, including for “shrapnel-like injuries”.

Greater Manchester Police has established an emergency telephone number in response to the attack. It is: 0161 856 9400.

In light of the attack, political parties have suspended campaigning ahead of the general election.

The prime minister has announced she will chair a meeting of the government’s emergency Cobra committee at around 9am today.

Armed police at Manchester Arena after the explosion following the Ariana Grande gig
Armed police at Manchester Arena after the explosion following the Ariana Grande gig

Theresa May said: “We are working to establish the full details” of what happened in Manchester.

“All our thoughts are with the victims and the families of those who have been affected.”

Unconfirmed reports suggested the attack was carried out by a suicide bomber.

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Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said he was “horrified” by the attack, adding: “Today the whole country will grieve for the people who have lost their lives.”

Greater Manchester metro mayor Andy Burnham said: “My heart goes out to families who have lost loved ones, my admiration to our brave emergency services. A terrible night for our great city.”

British Transport Police said the explosion was in the arena’s foyer, which connects with Victoria train and tram station, a major hub on the northern edge of the city centre.

Shortly after the blast the station was closed and all trains cancelled.

Greater Manchester Police carried out a precautionary controlled explosion in the Cathedral Garden area of the city at about 1.30am. The force later confirmed it was not a suspicious item.

Ariana Grande

The attack occurred shortly after Ariana Grande (above) left the stage at the arena – the city’s largest indoor venue with a concert capacity of around 21,000.

Grande – a 23-year-old American TV teen actress-turned-pop star – has a strong following among teenage girls and children.

She tweeted: “broken. from the bottom of my heart, i am so so sorry. i don’t have words.”

In the aftermath of the explosion witnesses spoke about the fear and confusion that gripped those caught up in the events.

Those inside the arena described clothing and mobile phones strewn across the floor as people scrambled for the exits.

Andy Holey, who had gone to the arena to pick up his wife and daughter who had been at the concert, told BBC News: “An explosion went off and it threw me about 30ft from one set of doors to the other set of doors.

”When I got up I saw bodies lying on the ground. My first thought was to go into the arena to try to find my family.

“I managed to find them eventually and they’re OK.

”It was definitely an explosion and it was some force. It happened near the box office at the entrance to the arena.”

Manchester Arena incident

Emma Johnson said she and her husband were at the arena to pick up her children, aged 15 and 17.

“It was definitely a bomb. It was definitely in the foyer,” she told BBC Radio Manchester.

“We were stood at the top of the stairs and the glass exploded – it was near to where they were selling the merchandise.

“The whole building shook. There was a blast and then a flash of fire afterwards. There were bodies everywhere.”

Manchester United and Manchester City have expressed shock and sadness after a bomb in the city killed 22 people on Monday night.

Children are among those killed and wounded in the blast at the Manchester Arena which police are treating as a “terrorist incident”.

United, who have travelled to Stockholm ahead of Wednesday’s Europa League final, wrote on Twitter: “We are deeply shocked by last night’s terrible events at the Manchester Arena. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all those affected.”

Greater Manchester Police have set up a help centre for anyone needing assistance at Gate 11 of City’s Etihad Stadium.

“It’s with great sadness we hear of the terrible events at the Arena. Our hearts go out to all affected and to our city’s emergency services,” City wrote on Twitter shortly after news of the attack broke.

City’s captain Vincent Kompany wrote: “I would like to express my deepest condolences to the families of the victims. It’s a sad day for the great city of Manchester. #Unity”

Police said on Tuesday morning that the death toll had risen to 22, with 59 injured. Greater Manchester Police chief constable Ian Hopkins said there were children among the dead.

United are due to play Ajax in the Europa League final at Stockholm’s Friends Arena on Wednesday evening.

European governing body UEFA wrote on Twitter: “UEFA is shocked by last night’s attack in Manchester. Our thoughts are with the victims and the families of those affected.”

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Two Scottish girls missing after Manchester terror attack

VIDEO: Distraught mother makes TV appeal to find missing 15-year-old daughter after Manchester attack

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