WITNESSES to the explosion at Manchester Arena have been sharing their experiences.

People from across the region are among thousands of people who travelled to the Ariana Grande concert at Manchester Arena on Monday evening.

EDITORIAL COMMENT: North defiant in the face of terror 

North-East witnesses are among those to have shared their accounts of the incident, which happened shortly after the gig ended.

British authorities have identified the bomber as Salman Abedi, a 22-year-old university dropout from a religious family.

He was born in Manchester to a Libyan household who were said to regularly attend a mosque.

Prime Minister Theresa May said on Tuesday night it was possible he had planned his deadly attack with a "wider group of individuals".

Abedi is believed to have attended the Manchester Islamic Centre, also known as the Didsbury Mosque.

Here, he reportedly caught the attention of one imam whom he stared down during a sermon denouncing terrorism.

"Salman showed me a face of hate after that sermon," Mohammed Saeed said of the 2015 encounter.

"He was showing me hatred."

He did not live in university accommodation, had not been in any trouble at the university and was not on any radar for pastoral or social care.

Among the missing are Chloe Rutherford, 17 and Liam Curry, 19, both from South Shields and Courtney Boyle and her mum's partner, Philip Tron from Gateshead.

In addition, Alex Klis, from York, says she has not been able to contact her parents Angelika and Marcin Klis since the explosion.

Audience members have described hearing loud explosions and seeing crowds flee as smoke filled the venue.

Sophie Tedd, a 25-year-old from Darlington, said noise and smoke came from tiered seating stage right.

She said: "We were sitting on that side when suddenly there was this big bang in the block next to us. 

"Everyone started screaming and we nearly got trampled on. There was a burning smell."

Robert Tempkin, 22, from Middlesbrough, said: "Everyone was screaming and running, there were coats and people's phones on the floor. People just dropped everything.

"Some people were screaming they'd seen blood but other people were saying it was balloons busting or a speaker had been popped.

"There were lots of ambulances. I saw somebody being treated. I couldn't tell what had happened to him."

Erin McDougle, 20, from Newcastle, said: "There was a loud bang at the end of the concert.

"The lights were already on so we knew it wasn't part of the show.

"At first we thought it was a bomb.

"There was a lot of smoke, people started running out.

"When we got outside the arena there were dozens of police vans and quite a few ambulances."

Twitter user @jackharibo_ said he was praying for those affected by the incident, tweeting: "A disturbing experience. I am from Darlington and travelled to this concert. Luckily I made it out."

College student Sebastian Diaz, 19, of Newcastle, said: "Ariana Grande had just finished her last song and there was a huge bang. I just saw running and it was just instinct to run.

"We actually ended up in a corridor and it was a dead end. It was terrifying.

"I found the main doors and people were crying everywhere. Back at the hotel people were crying and on their phones."

One survivor of the attack, Josh Elliott, spoke of his shock as he and friends from County Durham were preparing to leave the arena at the end of last night’s concert.

Speaking from a hotel in Manchester this morning, he said: “It happened literally at the end of the show.

“The lights came up and the arena was still about three-quarters.

“We were just starting to leave our seats going along the row when a loud basey bang went off.

“Everyone stopped and then everyone started to scream.

“I told everyone in our group to get on the ground.

“In a couple of minutes we thought it was a balloon, because they had dropped some massive balloons during the concert and we thought it might have been one of them going off.

“But, when we got into the foyer everyone was screaming and I have never been as scared in my life.

“It was the most terrifying thing I have witnessed and I was nowhere near anything that happened, so God knows what it must have been like for them.

“We got out fairly quickly, it only took a couple of minutes, and we got through the doors and everyone dispersed really quickly, but it was absolute madness.

“We didn’t stop and carried on walking. We just wanted to get as far away as we could.”

Mr Elliott said he was then able to ring home to tell family members what had happened and that he was safe.

He and his group were preparing to drive back to the North-East later today.

Responding to the concert atrocity, the Bishop of Durham, the Right Reverend Paul Butler, said: “The events in Manchester last night are a wanton attack on innocent and vulnerable people.

“My thoughts and prayers are with all those affected and particularly for those from the North-East who had travelled across for what they expected to be simply a great night out.”

Mayor of Tees Valley, Ben Houchen, said: “I want to express my sympathy, condolences and solidarity with the people of Manchester following the terrible events experienced at their arena.

"This was a barbaric and evil act and every parent will feel hurt in their heart at the targeting of innocent children.

"Terrorism can happen anywhere and Manchester is expressing the best response the people of the North of England can offer, they have come together to defy those who wish them harm.

"I’m writing to my opposite number, Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham, to put on the public record the sympathy and outrage felt by people in Tees Valley."

  • Were you at the concert? Email newsdesk@nne.co.uk.