A PUBLIC inquiry into the Manchester Arena bombing will consider if more lives could have been saved if firefighters were on the scene quicker.

Paul Greaney QC, counsel to the inquiry in Manchester, has set out a number of questions which need to be explored about the response of Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service (GMFRS).

The bombing in May, 2017 killed 22 people including Wendy Fawell, a mother-of-two from Otley, and injured hundreds.

Problems with communication and confusion over whether an 'shooter' was involved afterwards meant fire engines and their specialist equipment did not arrive for two hours and six minutes after the 10.31pm blast.

The inquiry, chaired by Sir John Saunders at Manchester Magistrates' Court, is looking at events before, during and after the suicide bombing by jihadist Salman Abedi at the end of an Ariana Grande concert.

Mr Greaney, continuing his opening statement on the third day of the hearing, said the inquiry would have to consider: "The impact, if any, of GMFRS's absence from the scene on those affected by the bombing, whether that absence contributed or may have contributed to the loss of life that occurred.

"We need to know whether a better response by the emergency services would have saved more lives or even a single life.

"No single agency has the necessary capability to resolve a major incident on its own, due to its complexity, number of casualties and other associated risks and threats that may be present.

"There can be no doubt there was a need for such joint working on the night of 22nd of May, 2017 in Manchester."

The inquiry was told North West Fire Control was notified at 10.34pm that there had been an explosion and mass casualties, and that police were looking for a second device. They also received reports, wrongly, of a shooter and some gunshot casualties.

But there appeared to be confusion about whether GMFRS should follow procedures based on the incident being an explosion or a terror bombing. Station manager Simon Berry, of GMFRS, was told a rendezvous point was arranged with police at nearby Manchester Cathedral but this was rejected in favour of a different point - for just four fire engines - at a fire station three miles away.

This decision would be 'critical' to the understanding of how the fire service was delayed so long in deploying to the arena, Mr Greaney said.

The inquiry, scheduled to run into next spring, continues.