A Liverpool taxi driver’s “heroic efforts” averted what could have been an “awful disaster” on Remembrance Sunday, the city’s mayor has said.
His cab pulled up outside Liverpool Women’s Hospital and exploded just before 11:00 GMT, as the national two minutes’ silence was due to begin.
Joanne Anderson praised the cabbie, named locally as David Perry, for “locking the doors” before the blast.
The taxi passenger died at the scene and Mr Perry was taken to hospital.
Three men have been arrested under the Terrorism Act, while MI5 is assisting regional counter-terrorism police.
Ms Anderson said: “The taxi driver in his heroic efforts has managed to divert what could have been an absolutely awful disaster.
“We knew the taxi driver had stood out, the taxi driver locked the doors.
“Our thanks go to him.”
Ms Anderson said Mr Perry was not thought to have suffered life-threatening injuries and was in a “stable” condition and recovering.
The dead passenger has not been formally identified.
Detectives from Counter Terrorism Police North West said three men – aged 29, 26 and 21 – were detained in the Kensington area of the city late on Sunday.
They said they were continuing to keep an “open mind” about the cause of the blast and were working with Merseyside Police as the investigation continued “at pace”.
There are a number of different lines of inquiry and investigators are keeping an open mind about the cause, and any motivation, after Sunday’s blast.
Unfortunately, the fire that consumed the taxi after the blast will have destroyed a lot of the forensic evidence that could reveal the nature and source of the explosive through residue.
Newspapers are speculating it might have been the detonator that went off and not the main explosive, but there’s been no confirmation of that.
Nonetheless, clearly this does not look like an accident.
It looks like an act of terrorism or a failed act of terrorism – but it has not been declared as such.
The fact this took place just before 11:00 on Remembrance Sunday, not too far from Liverpool Anglican Cathedral – where a couple of thousand people were expected to take part in a memorial service – will be one of the factors investigators are looking at.
It is also significant that the national terrorism threat level has not changed. It is currently ‘substantial’.
If it was thought there were other people out there with an active and serviceable device, then Britain would have moved up the scale, possibly even to ‘critical’ – the highest alert level – and that hasn’t happened.
Presentational grey line
Armed officers have carried out raids on properties on Rutland Avenue near Sefton Park, and around Sutcliffe Street and Boaler Street in Kensington.
Specialist officers remain outside a house on Rutland Avenue, in an operation police say is linked to the explosion.
A large cordon, guarded by uniformed officers, remains in place and a number of residents were evacuated.
Carl Bessant, whose partner had just had a baby, was inside the hospital at the time of the blast.
“My partner is really shook up to be honest,” he said.
“We were so close and she was feeding the baby when it happened. We heard a loud bang and looked out of the window.
“We saw the car on fire and someone jump out… screaming, and there was someone inside the car.
“The hospital shut down, no-one in or out, so they said, but people were using the back entrance.”
Police, fire and bomb disposal crews were at the scene of the blast which remains cordoned off
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Twitter: “My thoughts are with all those affected by the awful incident in Liverpool.
“I want to thank the emergency services for their quick response and professionalism, and the police for their ongoing work on the investigation.”
Home Secretary Priti Patel also tweeted she was “being kept regularly updated on the awful incident”.
Chief Constable Serena Kennedy, of Merseyside Police, sought to reassure the public, saying events of this nature were very rare and that there would be an increased and visible police presence on the streets in the coming days.
Raids have been carried out by armed police near Sefton Park, and also in the Kensington area of the city
Chief Constable Serena Kennedy said the police response would be ongoing “for some time”
Police were called at 10:59 to reports of a car explosion.
Phil Garrigan, chief fire officer of Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service, said the car fire had been “fully developed” when crews arrived shortly after 11:00.
“The operational crews extinguished the fire rapidly but… there was one fatality,” he said.
“Another individual had left the vehicle prior to the fire developing to the extent that it did. Our thoughts are with them and the families of those involved.”
Nick Aldworth, a former counter terror co-ordinator, said investigators would be looking to ascertain what happened inside the vehicle.
“They’ll be looking at what sort of damage has been caused, trying to get an assessment of what might have caused that blast,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
“From what I’ve seen there is very little blast damage – a lot of fire damage but very little blast damage.
“So whatever was in that vehicle was either a low yield or didn’t work properly or was possibly an incendiary.”
Mr Aldworth explained it was common for investigations to be linked to terrorism quickly as it provides investigators with more resources from an earlier stage.
He added that it was entirely appropriate to involve MI5 to understand if it holds relevant information.
A police cordon remains in place around Liverpool Women’s Hospital.
People were being allowed in and out of the hospital but officers could be seen at the entrance to the building and were stopping cars for checks as they entered the car park.
Liverpool Women’s Hospital receives about 50,000 patients annually and is the largest hospital in its specialism in Europe.