Two explosions disrupted the Boston Marathon on Monday, causing at least two deaths and nearly two dozen injuries and scattering crowds near the finish line, authorities said.
The blasts occurred after the top racers had completed the course, but thousands of others were still running. CNN reported that authorities halted the race.
Video footage showed an explosion off to the side of the street as runners were nearing the finish line, with a couple of runners toppling over from the concussion. Smoke rise from a sidewalk and people ran away. Photos of the scene afterward showed a sidewalk slicked with blood.
Boston police said later that two people were killed and 23 injured in the blasts.
Police subsequently cleared the sidewalk on Huntington Street, saying there was a live bomb inside the Prudential Center. A third, smaller blast was heard.
A CNN producer who was at the race said the first large explosion was followed about 10 seconds later by another blast. He said he saw at least five or six people who appeared to be injured.
Emergency personnel rushed to the area, and the street was quickly sealed off.
The explosions occurred shortly before 3 p.m. Eastern time near the intersection of Boylston and Exeter streets. Local media reports said store fronts were blown out.
The Boston Fire Department, fearing secondary blasts, ordered all equipment off Boylston Street. A Boston firefighter tweeted that there were fears of “another possible device” at the city’s Mandarin Hotel, but this could not immediately be confirmed.
Nor was it immediately known what caused the blasts near the finish line.
According to the CNN producer, the blasts occurred on opposite sides of the street. He said the first “looked like it was off to the side of the street” and the second “looked like it happened on the sidewalk.” There were indications that one of the blasts may have come from a trash container, he said.
The witness said he saw at least four injured people being treated at the scene.
Many of the injured appeared to be spectators who were watching the race.
Pam Howze, 39, of Arlington, Va., had just finished the marathon at the time of the explosions.
“We didn’t see anything,” she said. “We were walking away and all we heard were two booms…. We just left the area.”
About half of the nearly 27,000 participants had reportedly finished the race when the blasts occurred. The racers came from at least 56 countries and territories.
“I saw two explosions,” reported Boston Herald journalist Chris Cassidy, who was running in the marathon. “The first one was beyond the finish line. I heard a loud bang and I saw smoke rising.” The blast “ looked like it was in a trash can or something,” he said. “There are at least a dozen that seem to be injured in some way.”
Police established a crime scene around the Prudential Center, which is near the finish line. The blast apparently occurred about 300 yards from the finish line.
In Washington, Sen. Patrick J. Toomey (R-Pa.) acknowledged the early reports of explosions before speaking on the Senate floor about pending gun legislation.
“It appears tragedy has struck at the Boston Marathon,” he said. “And bombs have gone off and there are injuries we know of, the severity of which we do not yet know. We hope and pray that there are no fatalities.”
President Obama was notified of the incident, and the administration is in contact with state and local authorities, a White House official said. Obama directed his administration to provide whatever assistance is necessary in the investigation and response, the official said.