Shocked residents picked their way through debris
People evacuated from their homes told yesterday how they picked their way through twisted shards of metal and glass after a car bomb attack at a British army base in the North.
Mother-of-four Tracey Jordan lives next to the site of the blast at Palace Barracks, between Belfast and Holywood, Co Down. British secret service MI5's new North headquarters is in the area.
Ms Jordan was being helped away with her three-month-old baby when the device exploded.
"The paint went flying everywhere, we were trying to scramble through it to get out," she said.
"There were broken vases and everything. I don't know when I will get into the house again or what damage has been done."
She recalled the moment police raised the alarm. "I thought I was dreaming," she said.
The family had only minutes' notice before the device exploded.
Retired baker Jackie Budd lives yards away and awoke in confusion after the blast.
"I was just dazed, I did not know what was happening. There was just this loud bang and I thought something had blown in the house," he said.
This is the first attack of note in Holywood, a mainly middle-class area with long ties to the military, since the 1980s. The incident coincides with the transfer of policing powers from London to Belfast.
Mr Budd lives seven or eight houses down from the scene of the blast.
"There was debris on the road, what looked like big pieces of metal. There was no panic or yelling from the police, they just did their job," he said.
The site of the bomb is a leafy area with dramatic views of Belfast Lough on the outskirts of the city.
Norman Farleigh, in his 70s, was near the device when it went off. He was knocked off his feet and was taken to hospital as a precaution but was not badly injured.
People in nightgowns and overcoats, suddenly made refugees, made the 600-metre walk to a nearby community centre on a chilly night, negotiating fragments from the car bomb and trying to contact relatives by phone.
All the residents were taken to Redburn Community Centre where they had breakfast provided by Palace Barracks.
This morning, some people stood around aimlessly in dressing gowns, with one woman drawing wearily on a cigarette.
"We have been here all night. We have been well treated but it is just the inconvenience of it and it could be a long time until we get back home," she said.
Meanwhile, Alliance Assembly member Stephen Farry was helping to nominate a justice minister for the North just a mile or two away at Stormont as part of the transfer of policing powers.
"It is just a miracle nobody was killed," he said.