Two explosions went off near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, killing at least two people and injuring dozens more, as runners completed the course and thousands cheered them on. Race organizers described the blasts as bombs.
Authorities reported a third explosion at the John F. Kennedy Library, elsewhere in the city, more than an hour after the blasts. There were no immediate reports of injuries in that explosion. Authorities said that they were investigating and treating it as related, and the police commissioner urged people in Boston to stay inside.
Video from the finish line at the marathon showed people screaming and an enormous cloud of white smoke, and about 20 seconds between the blasts. The explosions were strong enough to cause at least one runner to collapse, and emergency personnel carried bloody spectators away.
A third, undetonated device was found near the finish line, a House Homeland Security Committee official and three law enforcement officials told NBC News.
Police said at least 23 people had been injured, but the count from hospitals was much higher. Massachusetts General Hospital said that it had 19 patients, Tufts Medical Center nine and Brigham and Women’s Hospital 18 to 20 – a total of 46 to 48. Of the 19 at Mass General, six were severe, hospital officials said. Dr. Alisdair Conn, chief of emergency medicine, characterized the blasts as a military-style bombing.
Race organizers, in a post on Twitter, said: “There were two bombs that exploded near the finish line in today’s Boston Marathon. We are working with law enforcement to determine exactly what happened”.
Suspicious packages were found after the blasts at three Boston subway stops, and authorities were investigating. Within an hour of the blasts, New York police deployed extra security to landmarks, and Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House was closed to foot traffic. San Francisco put its police on heightened alert.
The race is a signature event in Boston and has been run since 1897 on Patriots Day, the third Monday in April. Tens of thousands of spectators turn out each year to watch.
Race organizers said that almost 27,000 runners competed, representing 96 countries. The winners were Lelisa Desisa of Ethiopia for the men and Rita Jeptoo of Kenya for the women. A special marker at the 26th mile of the course, yards from the finish, had been set up to honor the 26 dead in the Newtown elementary school shooting last December.
The race began at 10am, and the explosions were reported just before 3pm. The winners had long ago completed the race – Desisa finished with a time of just over 2 hours, 10 minutes – but the explosions came as masses of other runners were approaching the finish. NBC affiliate WHDH said that storefront windows nearby were blown out.
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At least 132 people (including eight children) have been injured in the bombings, according to Boston-area hospitals. Boston police earlier said that two people were killed. An 8-year-old boy was among those killed, a state law enforcement source said, according to CNN‘s John King.
More to come as the story unfolds.