New recordings emerge revealing frustration of firefighters prevented from going in to help casualties after Arena bomb

Video report by Amy Welch

A senior fire chief still feels "anger, shame and total and utter embarrassment" at the performance of the fire service after the Manchester Arena bombing, the public inquiry heard.

Ben Levy, an area manager for Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service (GMFRS), described the service as a "laughing stock" after not arriving to help for more than two hours following the bombing.

He said on the night he was stopped from going to the scene and after challenging the decision taken by the top boss, chief fire officer Peter O'Reilly, was then relieved of his post as incident commander.

Mr Levy said on both a personal and organisational level he still feels shame.

Some firefighters were close enough to hear the blast - but instead were ordered to drive three miles in the opposite direction to Philips Park fire station in east Manchester.

A "massive" breakdown in communications meant confusion amid erroneous reports of an active shooter still on scene as part of an ongoing marauding terrorist firearms attack (MTFA).

Police had declared Operation Plato, the automatic response to an MTFA attack and swamped the area with armed police, but not told anyone and no-one could reach the police force duty officer, their point of contact, who was swamped with calls.

Mr Levy said he arrived at a muster point at Philips Park fire station at 11.34pm on May 22, 2017, just over an hour after the bomb exploded.

Frustrated firefighters waiting to race to the scene were aware ambulances were already at the Arena and thrust mobile phones at him showing social media of people fleeing the bombing and demanding they mobilise.

At 23.52, he called Peter O'Reilly at HQ, who gave him permission to move closer but to wait at Thompson Street Fire Station, nearby the Arena.

But after arriving there he saw ambulances leaving for the Arena and called Mr O'Reilly again.

Mr Levy had Specialist Response Teams (SRT), fire crews with enhanced first aid equipment and rescue stretchers stood around, and was ready to deploy but was told not to by Mr O'Reilly.

Instead, at quarter past midnight, he was instructed by Mr O'Reilly to send another officer, senior firefighter Andy Berry, with three engines, of 12 non-specialist firefighters, the same mobilisation as to a domestic house fire, the inquiry was told.

Mr Levy said: "I didn't expect a 'No.'

And 10 minutes later, he was "surprised" to be called by the assistant chief fire officer, Geoff Harris, who was not on duty that night.

He was informed he was being relieved of his post as incident commander.

After Mr Berry arrived at the scene, he sent a message back to "send everything" including the SRT teams, but this was refused, the inquiry heard.

Mr Berry agreed a "highly significant" piece of information passed by North West Ambulance Service (NWAS) to the fire control room, at 11.50pm, that their own crews were already on scene was not passed on to him.

He said if he had known paramedics were at the Arena he would have deployed there "immediately".

GMFRS crews finally attended the Arena more than two hours and 15 minutes after the first 999 calls.

The inquiry is looking at the circumstances surrounding the May 22 2017 attack which killed 22 people and injured hundreds when suicide bomber Salman Abedi struck as thousands left an Ariana Grande concert.