Thursday, May 22, 2008

Bomb blast in Exeter

A 12:50 BST today a bomb went off in Exeter city centre. Around forty minutes afterwards, at 13:29 BST, my wife emailed me here in Italy to tell me about the blast. The news started showing up a few minutes later, at 13:44 BST and 13:55 BST, as the story was picked up by the local and national BBC news sites. My tweet hit Twitter about 15 minutes after one BBC tweet and about an hour ahead of the other.


Taken at 15:22 BST by the Princesshay Webcam

At 14:12 BST the Exeter press office sent out a University wide email to inform people that there had been an explosion in the city, and that media reports suggested it was caused by an explosive device, but that there is no reason to suggest that the University was at risk.

Around the same time news stores started to appear as far afield as Plymouth and Turkey. The first pictures started to arrive around 13:40 BST, and by 14:55 BST there were twenty nine stories on Google News Search, reporting that there had been three blasts and that parts of the city had been evacuated including the Princesshay centre, Beford Sqare, High Street, Queen Street and Paris Street.

I'd received a second email from my wife at 14:42 BST suggesting that the current theory was that the blast had been caused by a man with a nail bomb trying to commit suicide about ten minutes before I saw the Reuters story suggesting the same thing.

By this point it had become clear that nobody other than the man that had set off the explosion had been injured in the incident and that although the possibility of other devices in the area could not be ruled out, there probably wasn't going to be any, and I could breathe again.

As happened with the London bombings in 2005 it is obvious that there have been fundamental changes in the way that news propagates since 2001. Although in fairness to the BBC, my wife tells me that she found out about the explosion from the local news more or less at the same time as someone who'd been in the city centre rang the office next door to tell them about the blast. Although following that, most additional information they heard came from friends and family on the ground, rather from the mainstream news sites.

I'd expect that over the next few hours, just like the 2005 blasts, I'll also be getting most of my news from non-mainstream sources. However unlike the 2005 bombing this, unless it turns out that the initial information is very wrong, is a local story and that means that, unlike a story of national interest, any follow up by the main stream press will be sporadic at best. They'll probably not just be the best news source, they might be the only news source available.

Update: Not quite a local story then, as it now appears there was some sort of Islamic connection. I'm getting very tired of the word "radicalised" being bandied about by the media...

Update: Amateur footage of the aftermath...