Blasts turn Boston Marathon into horrific tragedy

Updated: 2013-04-16 14:02


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BOSTON - Two explosions struck the Boston Marathon Monday, turning a festive game on Patriots' Day, a state holiday in Massachusetts, into a horrific tragedy.

The runners were crossing the finish line when a powerful blast occurred behind spectators and a row of flags, sending a cloud of smoke almost 15 meters into the air.

The explosion ripped through crowd-control barricades, knocking down several people and throwing onlookers as well as the approaching runners into blind panic.

"I saw a cloud of heavy smoke rising into the air before hearing a violent blast, which I had thought was some kind of celebration," said Cao Yue, a Chinese student at the University of Boston, who was just 200 meters away from the Boston Marathon finish line.

"And some one minute later, I heard another powerful blast," he told Xinhua. "And I knew something terrible must have happened when I saw people rushing headlong away from the scene with shrill and panic cries."

"I was totally shocked and people were really scared," recalled Cao.

Ambulances, fire trucks and dozens of police vehicles were seen near the finish line. And the police began to evacuate spectators and runners and cordoned the neighboring areas, he said.

"The evacuating and rescue operation was in perfect order and no serious delays occurred," Cao said.

Many people were walking and running high and low in search of their families and friends. Some were trying to contact them by cell phones.

A third explosion was reported at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library, about three miles from the marathon's finishing line.

"We are not certain that these incidents are related, but we are treating them as if they are," Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis told a press conference.

Hours later, the city of Boston has restored tranquillity though updates about the incident are still coming, said Zhu Minghua, another Chinese student studying in Boston.

"People need to drive in a roundabout way as the neighboring areas surrounding the explosions are still cordoned off," Zhu told Xinhua.

"The city has become peaceful again, but the repercussion of the blasts is still there," he said.

Security was not significantly tightened at the airport but was strengthened in downtown Boston. Streets and avenues were still closed off and guarded with heavily armed police.

Deep into the night, it is getting cold in Boston and the capital city of Massachusetts is shrouded in a tense and bitter atmosphere.