At least three people were killed and 128 people were being treated in hospitals after two explosions near the finish line of the Boston Marathon yesterday, the Boston Police Department said.
The blasts occurred just before 3pm – four hours, nine minutes and 44 seconds into the race. The FBI described it as a terrorist attack last night. Two unexploded devices were later found.
In an address last night US president Barack Obama said those responsible would feel the full weight of justice and that all Americans “stand with the people of Boston”.
“We do not know who did this or why,” he said. “People shouldn’t jump to conclusions before we have all the facts.”
He saluted the response of the emergency services in the city and pledged all federal help necessary to the city and the victims of the blasts.
Earlier, he had called Boston's mayor Tom Menino and Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick saying that the administration would provide them with whatever support was they needed.
The explosions, which took place just before a photo bridge that marks the finish line, forced a city packed with spectators and runners into lockdown as emergency authorities rushed to help the injured and restore calm.
Pictures and videos posted online showed wounded spectators and several injured runners being treated and smoke around the finish line after the first blasts on the north side of Boylston Street, one of Boston’s main thoroughfares.
Stewards carried spectators covered in blood to the medical tent set up for runners in need of treatment.
The Boston Marathon organisers said that bombs caused the two explosions.
The Associated Press, citing an intelligence official, reported that two explosive devices were found at the marathon and were being dismantled.
Roupen Bastajian, a 35-year-old state trooper from Rhodes Island, had just finished the race when he heard the first blast.
“I started running toward the blast and there were people all over the floor,” he told AP. “We started grabbing tourniquets and started tying legs. A lot of people amputated . . . at least 25 to 30 people have at least one leg missing, or an ankle missing, or two legs missing.”
Phil Kirkpatrick, a 59-year-old from Nashville with blood on his jeans, said he was watching his girlfriend race when the explosions occurred.
“I was standing just there and something blew up on the street. There was a large explosion and a white flash. It blew us all back on to each other. It was so loud – I still can’t hear out of my right ear.”
The New York Police Department increased security around landmarks in Manhattan, including near prominent hotels, in the aftermath of the blasts in Boston.
In Washington DC, the secret service shut down Pennsylvania Avenue outside the White House shortly after the explosions, cordoning off the area with police tape.
There were 108 Irish citizens participating in the race, according to the tracker on the Boston Marathon website.
The Department of Foreign Affairs has advised anyone concerned about relatives that may have been caught up in the incident to contact them on 01-4082000.
– (Additional reporting: AP, Reuters, Bloomberg, wires)