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Bermudians put faith in NYPD after blast

Police officers look for suspicious packages along Fifth Avenue near the scene of an explosion on West 23rd Street and 6th Avenue in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighbourhood (Photograph by Andres Kudacki/AP)

A bomb blast in New York’s Chelsea district has not put Olivia Hollis and Julia Mather off enjoying the city.

Ms Hollis and Ms Mather were both in New York when the bomb exploded outside a residence for blind people at about 9pm on Saturday.

The force of the explosion blew out windows and left 29 people injured — but according to Ms Mather and Ms Hollis, business continued as usual even though the city was on “high alert”.

Bombing suspect Ahmad Khan Rahami, 28, was arrested yesterday in a shootout with police after several other devices were found in the New York and New Jersey area.

“It is definitely scary, no question about that,” Ms Hollis, who has been living in New York for six years, told The Royal Gazette.

But she added: “The atmosphere here in New York is not really different from any other day.

“The city, yes, is defiantly on high alert, with the higher-than-usual NYPD presence on the streets and in subway stations, which helps make us as locals feel safe and protected.

“But New Yorkers don’t really let events like this stop them from going about their days, they are getting their morning coffee and going on their morning commute as per usual.”

Ms Hollis, a 25-year-old Bermudian who hails from Bailey’s Bay, added that she has faith in the New York Police Department.

“I am very thankful and relieved that I was at home in my apartment in the East Village when it took place. Chelsea is an area that I am in quite often so it would not have been out of the ordinary for me to be around that area on Saturday night having dinner or drinks with friends.

“This taking place defiantly puts into perspective that events like this can happen anywhere at anytime especially in New York City where we are constantly moving around different areas of the city at any given time of the day.

“We realise that it could have been any of us walking down 23rd Street and 6th avenue on a Saturday night.

“But I, for one, have faith in the city and the amazing men and women of the NYPD that keep us safe everyday, I trust in them today the same as I did on Friday before the explosion.

“I think today, if anything, I am more alert and aware as I am out and about and as New Yorkers I think that is all we can do at this time.”

According to international media reports, two NYPD officers were injured in the confrontation with the bombing suspect in Linden, New Jersey, and the FBI has said no other suspects are being sought over the weekend’s blast. On Saturday night, a shrapnel-packed pressure-cooker bomb exploded in the Chelsea area and an unexploded pressure-cooker bomb was found blocks away.

Earlier that day, a pipe bomb blew up before a charity race to benefit Marines in Seaside Park, New Jersey. No one was injured.

And on Sunday night, five explosive devices were discovered in a trash can at an Elizabeth train station. Ms Mather, who was at her holiday apartment a few blocks away from where the Chelsea explosion happened, said on Sunday that she was “certainly not put off” by the attack.

“I generally think that when your time is up it’s up and there’s not much you can do about it,” the Smith’s resident said. “I’m not going to let these crazies win by making my life insular and the best response is to carry on regardless.”

Ms Mather said she had always felt “very safe walking around central Manhattan” by herself and kept to all of her plans on Sunday. But she added: “I was due to meet my old university housemate for brunch at pretty much the exact location of the second bomb so we just changed the location.”

Ms Mather heard the bomb blast but did not think much of it until she received a message from a friend in Bermuda asking if she was OK. “You get used to hearing random noises and sirens here, and there’s lots of construction going on in the area,” she explained.

About an hour later, she received an alert from “the authorities in NY asking people to stay away from windows”.

“From the apartment I could see traffic still heading down Fifth Avenue, lots of flashing lights, helicopters hovering around outside my apartment.

“But otherwise everything was exactly as normal.”