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Manchester blast death toll rises to 22

The Greater Manchester Police have confirmed that there were children among the dead.

Police forensic officers walk along a bridge linking Victoria station to the Manchester Arena, the scene of a terror attack during a pop concert by US star Ariana Grande in Manchester, north-west England on 23 May 2017. Picture: AFP.

MANCHESTER - Greater Manchester Police say the death toll from a deadly blast at an Ariana Grande concert in the city has now risen to 22.

At least 59 others were injured in the blast which took place on Monday night shortly after the end of the US singer’s performance.

At a press conference on Tuesday morning Greater Manchester Police chief constable Ian Hopkins said they were treating it as a terrorist incident.

"We believe, at this stage, the attack last night was conducted by one man," Hopkins told reporters. "The priority is to establish whether he was acting alone or as part of a network.

"The attacker... died at the arena. We believe the attacker was carrying an improvised explosive device which he detonated causing this atrocity."

When asked about the age of the victims, Hopkins said he did not have that detail to hand but confirmed that there were children among the dead.

WATCH: The fatal Manchester Arena blast

Police carried out a controlled explosion on a suspect device several hours after the blast.

Police said they responded to reports of an explosion shortly after 10:35pm at the arena, which has a capacity for 21,000 people, and where the US singer had been performing to an audience that included many children.

If confirmed as a terrorism incident, it would be the deadliest attack in Britain by militants since four British Muslims killed 52 people in suicide bombings on London’s transport system in July 2005.

Manchester Arena, the largest indoor arena in Europe, opened in 1995 and is a popular concert and sporting venue.

A witness who attended the concert said she felt a huge blast as she was leaving the arena, followed by screaming and a rush by thousands of people trying to escape the building. A video posted on Twitter showed fans, many of them young, running from the venue.

“We were making our way out and when we were right by the door there was a massive explosion and everybody was screaming,” concert-goer 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.”

WATCH: The aftermath

PARENTS' ANGUISH

Desperate parents and friends used social media to search for loved ones who attended Monday's concert while the wounded were being treated at six hospitals across Manchester.

"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 girl with flowers in her hair.

Paula Robinson, 48, from West Dalton about 40 miles east of Manchester, said she 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 arena.

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

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 lots children at Holiday Inn."

Police deploy at the scene of an explosion in Manchester, England, on 23 May 2017 at an Ariana Grande concert. Picture: AFP.

Police at the scene of the explosion in Manchester. Picture: AFP.

ELECTION CAMPAIGN SUSPENDED

The blast also came two and half weeks ahead of an election in which Prime Minister Theresa May is predicted by opinion polls to win a large majority.

May said earlier that the incident was being treated as a terrorist attack.

"We are working to establish the full details of what is being treated by the police as an appalling terrorist attack," May said in a statement. "All our thoughts are with the victims and the families of those who have been affected."

May is due to hold a crisis response meeting.

Britain's political parties have agreed to suspend election campaigning until further notice following the attack.

Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the opposition Labour Party, said in a statement that he had spoken to May and had agreed that all national campaigning for the 8 June election would be suspended.

"I am horrified by the horrendous events in Manchester last night," Corbyn said. "My thoughts are with families and friends of those who have died and been injured."

Chinese President Xi Jinping sent his condolences over the blast to Britain's Queen Elizabeth, Chinese state media reported.

Map showing the Manchester Arena where at least 22 people were killed in a suspected terror attack during a concert by US star Ariana Grande on Monday.

SUICIDE BOMBER?

There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but US officials drew parallels to the coordinated attacks in November 2015 by Islamist militants on the Bataclan concert hall and other sites in Paris, which claimed about 130 lives.

Islamic State supporters took to social media to celebrate the blast and some encouraged similar attacks elsewhere.

Britain is on its second-highest alert level of "severe", meaning an attack by militants is considered highly likely.

British counter-terrorism police have said they are making on average an arrest every day in connection with suspected terrorism.

In March, a British-born convert to Islam ploughed a car into pedestrians on London's Westminster Bridge, killing four people before stabbing to death a police officer who was on the grounds of parliament. The man was shot dead at the scene.

In 2015, Pakistani student Abid Naseer was convicted in a US court of conspiring with al-Qaeda to blow up the Arndale shopping centre in the centre of Manchester in April 2009.

Grande says she’s “broken” after the event.

In a post on Twitter, Grande said she was “sorry” and didn’t have words.

Meanwhile, the South African government says it has no information yet about whether any of its citizens were at the venue at the time of the explosion.

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