Page last updated at 05:02 GMT, Sunday, 10 July 2005 06:02 UK

City transformed into ghost town

By Zoe Gough
BBC News, Birmingham

Police divert traffic from Birmingham city centre
Traffic was not allowed into the city centre
Birmingham city centre was transformed into a ghost town as a major security alert forced its Saturday night revellers to the outskirts.

They were joined by hundreds more residents, hotel guests and hospitality workers flooding onto the streets, heading out of the city.

Overhead the noise of a police helicopter confirmed the eerie reality that this was an emergency.

The main roads into the city were quickly gridlocked as motorists were turned around at police cordons and more people returned to their cars to make a quick exit.

Making their way on foot many had packed suitcases fearing the worst.

'Too anxious'

Gerrard Murphy, 32, was walking his dog when a friend phoned to tell him what had happened.

"I started to notice people on the streets and thought something had happened similiar to what had happened in London," he said.

"I asked a policeman if I could get back to my flat but he said 'no'.

Aston University
Hundreds spent the night in emergency accommodation

"I was really frightened walking past the cars as I was conscious of what might happen."

Mr Murphy was among those who made their way to the emergency accommodation provided at Aston University.

Inside blankets and pillows were provided for people to sleep in two auditoriums but most said they were too anxious to rest.

Thomas Gorman, 72, had been trying to get home by bus to Northern Ireland when the city's coach station was evacuated. He was brought to the university.

He said: "I'm not going to sleep. I'm tired but there's just too much activity going on this late.

"I'm concerned about how I'm going to get home. I don't know when coaches are going to start going in and out again."

Others expressed their frustration at ending their night out.

'Walking in circles'

People had come from London, Southampton, Yorkshire and even Belgium to enjoy the city's well known entertainment district.

Bernadette Atkinson, 55, from West Yorkshire, said: "I was angry it had ended our evening. We had come here to go out.

"We were walking around in circles. We didn't know where we were going or have anywhere to stay as we couldn't go back to our hotel."

But among the confusion and upheaval Ms Atkinson said she saw a bride and groom having their first dance on the road outside the police cordon.

"They even threw their bouquet into the crowd."

Birmingham alert: Your accounts
10 Jul 05 |  Have Your Say
In Pictures: Birmingham evacuates
10 Jul 05 |  In Pictures

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