BOSTON — Two bombs exploded at the venerable Boston Marathon on Monday, killing at least three people, injuring about 100 others and rattling nerves around the nation, authorities said.
The blasts occurred in rapid succession as thousands of runners were nearing the finish line and sent scores of them scrambling for cover. Video footage showed an explosion off to the side, with some runners toppling over from the concussion. Smoke billowed into the air, and photos of the chaotic scene showed a sidewalk slicked with blood.
The explosions, occurring on the Patriot’s Day holiday that commemorates the Revolutionary War battles of Lexington and Concord, were as shocking in their symbolism as in their force. The Boston Marathon is a highly prestigious race and is as much a symbol of Boston as Fenway Park.
Two federal law enforcement officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed that the blasts were caused by explosive devices. One of the dead, according to one official, was an 8-year-old.
The repercussions extended from Massachusetts to Washington, where President Obama was briefed by top officials, the White House increased security, and the Justice Department and FBI mobilized to fully investigate what had happened.
In a brief appearance at the White House shortly after 6 p.m., Obama expressed sympathy for the victims of the blasts and said all the necessary resources of the federal government would be assigned to assist Boston officials in determining the cause of the explosions.
“We still do not know who did this or why, and people shouldn’t jump to conclusions before we have all the facts,” Obama said. “But make no mistake — we will get to the bottom of this.”
Initial reports of another explosion at the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston turned out to be an unrelated fire. Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick urged people to “stay out of crowds” as they made their way home.
The explosions occurred shortly before 3 p.m. near the intersection of Boylston and Exeter streets. Local media reports said store fronts were blown out.
The first blast sent a quick plume of smoke two stories high. Runners nearby stopped in their tracks, confused and unsure. After a few seconds later, a second explosion happened a half-block away, with a deep boom caught on television cameras.
Emergency personnel rushed to the area, and the street was quickly sealed off.
Many of the injured appeared to be spectators who were watching the race. 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.