It was a quiet Wednesday morning, everyone went about their routines as usual, or at least tried to as the ongoing Stagecoach strike continued to disrupt some bus services throughout the city.

Then all of a sudden, a heavy police presence descended upon the City Hall building before 9am. They were armed. The area was cordoned off immediately, roads were closed and a “Major incident” was declared. Other emergency services soon followed.

It was soon revealed that a “malicious communication” regarding a “credible threat” had been made against the facility, prompting its immediate evacuation. Its entire workforce was sent home for the day and a council meeting scheduled for the afternoon was cancelled.

Soon after, reports emerged that a 67 year old man had been arrested and taken into custody. His name is already publicly known, but it would not be appropriate to use this article to comment any further on the veracity or specifics of the yet uninvestigated incident.

Rather, the “human toll” and disruption of the events yesterday has been nothing short of disastrous. Beyond bringing the city centre to a standstill and wasting the time of the police, fire brigade and ambulance service, there were reports a scheduled wedding that morning in the building was ruined by the false alarm, whilst job centre appointments were scuttled, the list goes on. The combined costs of all this are not yet known.

In addition, Sunderland Global Media received scores of calls for help from angry and distressed staff working at the food delivery firm Ocado, who based nextdoor in “The Beam” building, were reportedly not allowed to evacuate and go home. This prompted public scrutiny of the firm’s commitment to the welfare of its employees, as opposed to its profit margins.

Whilst the facts are yet to materialize, one thing for sure is that this was a “day of chaos” Sunderland won’t forget, and the gravity and severity of what has happened is astronomical. The nature of the incident sadly means that the political knives are out already; and a vicious and ugly public blame game is likely to play out across certain spaces.

One can only hope that justice will take its rightful course.

By SGM

SGM

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