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Manchester Arena attack: firefighters ‘ashamed’ they were unable to help victims

Fire Brigade Union chief said crews were angry and frustrated they weren’t deployed sooner

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Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Manchester Arena attack: firefighters ‘ashamed’ they could not help victims” was written by Josh Halliday and Matthew Weaver, for The Guardian on Wednesday 28th March 2018 07.46 UTC

Firefighters felt “embarrassed” and “ashamed” that they were stopped from helping victims of the Manchester Arena terror attack more quickly, the north-west secretary of the Fire Brigades Union has said.

Mark Rowe said crews were waiting to be deployed after the bombing – some of them so close that they had heard the explosion – but “the order never came down from the top”.

His comments came after Greater Manchester fire and rescue service (GMFRS) was forced to issue an unreserved apology for turning up two hours late to the Manchester Arena attack because fire chiefs followed protocol instead of showing “pragmatism”.

An official review of the response to the attack, published on Tuesday, prompted calls for ministers to rethink “inflexible” rules for dealing with terrorist atrocities so that emergency services can use common sense to save lives in future attacks.

Rowe told BBC Breakfast on Wednesday: “Members were very angry that they weren’t being deployed to the scene.

“There was frustration. Members have talked about their embarrassment that they weren’t deployed and also feeling ashamed that they were prevented from doing anything that night.”

The report by Bob Kerslake, commissioned by the mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, found poor communications between the police and fire service meant the “valuable” assistance of fire crews was delayed by two hours and six minutes after the bombing, which left 22 dead and scores injured.

Many firefighters heard the explosion from their base just over half a mile away from the arena and were desperate to deploy, the report found. Instead, they were told to drive to another fire station three miles away and were left to watch reports on TV.

Fire chiefs wrongly believed they were dealing with a marauding terrorist attack, like those experienced in Mumbai and Paris.

When they arrived at the arena, more than two hours after Salman Abedi detonated his suicide bomb, the visibly frustrated fire officers were not immediately allowed on to the concourse to help because of communication errors between “risk-averse” officers in charge, the report said.

Complaints from firefighters prompted Burnham to commission Lord Kerslake to carry out the independent review, which concluded the fire service played “no meaningful role”.

The Manchester Evening News said it had been “inundated” with calls from firefighters in the 24 hours after the attack speaking of the shame they felt at being prevented from helping. Many had elite training in how to respond to a terrorist attack.

One firefighter, who spoke to the paper on condition of anonymity, said: “Police from Wales and Yorkshire and ambulances from the East Midlands were at the arena helping the dead and wounded – 400 yards from our base.

“It was heart-wrenching for those sat there, with news coming back that the general public were carrying dead, dying, and injured people on advertising boards.

“Paramedics were coming back questioning why we weren’t doing anything when they needed us for basics like oxygen cylinders and to fetch and carry. To a man and woman the ambulance service went despite being told that it was still an active incident.”

The security minister, Ben Wallace, admitted he was frustrated by failures identified in the Kerslake report, but rejected calls for changes in the rules for dealing with terrorist attacks.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Wednesday, he said: “The overwhelming response by the emergency services to the attack in Manchester was positive. Was I shocked? No. I was frustrated about the failure that was identified, that an individual called Operation Plato, thinking it was a marauding terrorist firearms attack, and in doing so that communication to the fire service meant there was a delay in the fire service [response].”

Asked whether counter-terrorist protocols would be changed in the wake of the attack, as Burnham called for, the minister said: “The protocols and the training and the exercising and the strategy all were there. When they are not followed we obviously have to look at why they weren’t followed, but overall [on] most of the occasions they were. Paramedics and police were there very very quickly. It was the fire service who were prevented, so it wasn’t that people were abandoned. Treatment was very quick and very real for many people.”

Speaking on BBC Breakfast, Wallace added: “Quite rightly it [the Kerslake report] did pick out a failure in a communication between the fire service on the night and the police force in that local response. That is not in line with the guidance that is already in existence and the exercising. That is obviously a lesson to be learned to make sure people understand their role in the response.”

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Kremlin “pleased” with Helsinki summit, US and Western intelligence assesses

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CNN Reports:

Russian officials were “pleased” with the Helsinki summit between Presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, US and Western intelligence agencies have found, according to two intelligence sources with knowledge of the assessments.

The assessments, based on a broad range of intelligence, indicate that the Kremlin believes the July 16 summit delivered a better outcome than it had expected, but that Moscow is perplexed that Trump is not delivering more Russia-friendly policies in its aftermath.

The intelligence sources say the Russians were particularly satisfied with the press conference the two leaders gave in Helsinki after Trump and Putin met for about two hours without staff and accompanied only by translators. In the 45-minute press conference, Trump discredited US intelligence and American policies more broadly, saying “the United States has been foolish” about ties with Russia, a country that has engaged in ongoing attacks on US democracy.

A spokesperson for the Office of Director of National Intelligence declined to comment, and the White House did not respond to request for comment.

The administration’s decision last week to impose sanctions on Russia for the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter left Russian officials puzzled that the President is not delivering more favorable policies.

Trump has repeatedly called for warmer relations with Moscow, but the Kremlin is neglecting to factor in the considerable role that Congress and others play in US policy-making, a Western intelligence official said.

Putin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov’s comments last week reflected the deflated Russian hopes for improved ties with Washington or at least less punitive US policies.

“President Putin said in Helsinki that Russia still has hopes for the creation of a constructive relationship with Washington…We are sorry that often we are not met with cooperation on this account,” Peskov said Aug. 9 in a regular press call with reporters.

Peskov’s comments contrasted sharply with the evaluation Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov offered immediately after the summit, when he said that the talks had been “better than super.”

Trump’s performance in Helsinki sparked unusually public criticism, even from within his own party.

The administration’s decision to impose the sanctions followed a July 26 letter from GOP Congressman Ed Royce, the Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, urging the White House to comply with a law requiring the US to levy sanctions against countries that violate the 1991 Chemical and Biological Weapons and Warfare Elimination Act.

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