International

Feature: “I heard over 50 gunshots,” witnesses recall horrifying Christchurch mosque shootings


CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand, March 15  — Fear shrouded New Zealand’s city of Christchurch on Friday as at least 49 people were confirmed dead so far in multiple shootings in two mosques in the city center.
Streets remained quiet and empty after the attacks, as Mayor of Christchurch Lianne Dalziel urged people to “stay inside” for safety reasons when suspects could still be on the run.
All schools in the city were put into lockdown just before home time, with many parents packed at the school gates waiting for further notice. A mother started to sob when she read the news on her phone. Her friends provided comfort by hugging her.
“This is one of New Zealand’s darkest days,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said during a televised speech after the shootings, describing it as a terrorist attack.
A 14-year-old high school student in Christchurch told local media that his uncle was one of the people who got shot. After seeing people falling down, he just ran as fast as he could, all the way to the nearby Hagley Park.
“The gunshots sounded like pop, pop, pop … I heard over 50,” the boy recalled.
About 110 rounds of shots were fired, local media reported.
Four suspects, including three men and one woman, were arrested by the police so far. One gunman, believed to be an Australian, filmed as he shot at the victims in the mosque. The footage was circulated on social media and the police tried to remove it.
The main roads of central Christchurch were cordoned off by police officers shouting “get out” to people who were trying to get closer to see what was happening.
Helicopters hovered over the city, and police sirens were frequently heard. The police urged people not to visit any mosques in New Zealand on Friday.
“I am still shaking, and I am traumatized,” a witness said. – XINHUA