I am in Birmingham … sirens are wailing … again!
[21.30] I finally made it back from London to Birmingham and the breaking news here (this time — as I finish watching Hellboy on DVD) is that the Broad Street area of the city has been closed off and thousands of people have been evacuated. Unconfirmed reports suggest that the alert has been triggered off by suspicious packages being left somewhere. I’ve just seen a car stop and park in front of the house, a man jumps out with a fairly professional looking camera in his hands, he heads off in the direction of Broad Street — just a 10 minute walk from here — I decide to head out to see for myself.
[22.45] Just got back. It’s being reported that over 30,000 people have been evacuated from Birmingham City Centre by the police. It’s also reported (by David Brooks of the Birmingham Sunday Mercury on a BBC News 24 interview) that a controlled explosion was carried out on a suspect package found on a No.105 bus outside the Square Peg pub. What I saw was some groups of people just standing around, some with beer in their hands, others choosing to sit on grass verges. However, most people were moving away from town calmly if a little confusedly. A lot of them were obviously out-of-towners whose knowledge of the back streets of central Birmingham isn’t that great. Different conga lines of hen parties were bumping into each other on their way out. Chinatown and Hurst Street seem to have closed too, so crowds of Chinese tourists and patrons of the gay bars and clubs mingled together as they walked away from town. A man walked past me with tap shoes on which clicked loudly on the tarmac as he hurried by — I think he may have been a cast member of 42nd Street, which was (not) playing at the Hippodrome.
So, no panic really — just disappointed Saturday night revellers and disgruntled (but safe) Brummies.
[UPDATE: 10/07/05 – West Midlands Police release a statement explaining the evening’s incidents, urging people to go home and stating:
… 12.15pm (sic) latest information. As part of the security alert no residential addresses have been evacuated. The number of displaced/stranded people, due to the security cordons, appears to be at a minimum. Ladywood Arts Centre is open as a rest centre and Aston University is on standby to perform the same function.
… good! I can go to sleep now.]