Pupils evacuated as army deals with Malone Road pipe bomb
A south Belfast MLA has accused those behind the planting of a viable pipe bomb on a congested Malone road as having "no regards for the lives of other people".
Anna Lo was commenting after the device was found outside a Territorial Army base on the busy commuter route and in close proximity to two major secondary schools.
The Malone Road was closed between Adelaide Park and Cranmore Park for over seven hours while a controlled explosion was carried out on the device.
The road was only reopened after 5pm, causing major rush hour traffic and bus disruptions.
Students at the junior site of Victoria College Belfast had to be moved on to the nearby senior site and parents were made aware of the alert.
Senior staff later escorted pupils to re-routed buses on the Lisburn Road, although some services were suspended.
One Year 13 pupil said that there were delays of up to an hour on most services.
"No one was allowed to go out the Malone Road exit so the teachers walked with us down to the Lisburn Road.
"The usual Malone Road buses were picking people up from the Lisburn Road so the traffic was really heavy and most people were waiting for over an hour on the normal (public) buses."
A spokesperson for the school said that they deployed their Critical Incident Policy after they were informed of the security alert by the PSNI.
"Pupils were well looked after throughout the day and all staff worked to keep to the normal routine as far as possible. Parents were kept informed via our text messaging service. We were in contact with Translink with regard to the bus routes for homeward journeys for pupils and arranged alternative pick-up locations for a number of bus routes".
Senior staff at Methodist College also had to direct pupils to alternative routes when pupils were leaving.
Alliance MLA Anna Lo said: "There is no place in our society for violence. Somebody could have been seriously injured or worse if this pipe bomb had exploded.
"The people responsible obviously have no regards for the lives of other people."
UUP MLA Michael McGimpsey condemned those behind the device and paid tribute to the professionalism and bravery of army personnel in dealing with it.
"This is a residential area with many young families and children walking past to get to and from local schools. If the device had exploded it could easily have caused death or injury to innocent bystanders," he said.
"The actions of the individuals who left this device were nothing short of reckless and could have caused serious injury or death.
"These people have no place in our modern society," he added.
The device was one of three major alerts yesterday after controlled explosions were also carried out on a stolen vehicle in north Belfast, on the Hillview Road, before it was declared a hoax and at Palace Barracks in Holywood.