Manchester gets back to work

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A week after the biggest IRA bomb ever detonated in Britain all but destroyed Manchester's busiest shopping centre, the city is back in business, with three-quarters of city centre shops open yesterday.

More than 2,000 people crowded into Manchester Cathedral - which still has boarded-up windows - for a service of peace and reconciliation. Victims of the outrage, which injured 206 people, wept aschoirister Megan Garrity, 10, sang: "Let there be peace".

Liberal Democrat leader Paddy Ashdown, visiting the city yesterday, said: "I have seen a few bombs in my time but nothing like this since I was in Sarajevo."

Estimates of the cost of repairing the damage have been reported at as high as pounds 500m, but council officials refuse to speculate. "It's impossible to put a correct figure on it at this stage. Not all the buildings have been properly surveyed and loss adjusters still have to visit some of the most badly damaged premises," saidspokeswoman Jane Price.

Yesterday Alistair Burt, minister with special responsibilty for Manchester, pledged Government support for the rebuilding of the city. A Lord Mayor's appeal has been launched to provide relief for the victims.