Fear, grief and support after Paris attacks put French capital under siege – CNN
Authorities warned residents to stay inside, the city has closed many public buildings, and military reinforcements have been mobilized.
Situation ‘very tense’
“The situation in Paris is very tense,” Gregory Philipps, deputy editor of France Radio, told CNN early Saturday. “People, they don’t want to go out.”
Revelers who were out on the town as the mayhem unfolded were offered refuge in nearby bars, friends’ homes and even the apartments of strangers posting on social media.
“We have no idea if some other terrorists are out on the street now,” Philipps said.
As residents of France awoke Saturday morning, it remained unclear who was behind the attacks and exactly how many people had lost their lives.
The words “horror,” “massacre” and “war” peppered the front pages of the country’s newspapers, conveying the shell-shocked mood.
Some people were out on the streets Saturday morning, but far fewer than usual.
“Normally, at this time in Paris, you have cars, you have children in the streets,” Geraldine Schwarz, a journalist at the newspaper Le Monde told CNN. “This morning I went down to get some bread and everything was closed.”
‘Ten horrific minutes’
What began as a regular Friday night of Parisians and tourists out eating and drinking in the city descended into scenes of savage bloodshed.
Heavily armed tactical police units and other emergency workers swarmed the scenes of the attacks, many of which hit popular nightlife areas.
At the Bataclan, a concert hall in an eastern part of central Paris, gunmen stormed the venue as an American rock band was nearing the end of a show.
“People yelled, screamed,” said Julien Pearce, a journalist who was at the event. “It lasted for 10 minutes. Ten horrific minutes where everybody was on the floor covering their head.”
The violence at the Bataclan, which involved a hostage-taking, resulted in the highest number of casualties of all the attacks that hit Paris on Friday.
Working in a bar nearby, Xavier Sarraute initially thought the bangs going off were a car misfiring. But he and his colleagues quickly realized that what they were hearing were gunshots.
They ushered people inside the bar and closed it up.
“They were really panicked,” Sarraute told CNN. “They just stayed on the floor and protected themselves.”
‘A scene straight out of a war’
A little further north, Charlotte Brehaut and a friend were dining in Le Petit Cambodge, a Cambodian restaurant in the Canal St. Martin neighborhood of the city.
“All of a sudden we heard huge gunshots and glass coming through the windows. We ducked with the other diners,” she told CNN.
Brehaut said she grabbed the arm of a woman on the floor, but the woman who had been shot in the chest and was surrounded by blood, didn’t respond.
The gunfire also reportedly hit Le Carillon, a bar across the street from the restaurant.
“We were listening to music when we heard what we thought were the sounds of firecrackers,” a doctor from a nearby hospital who was drinking in the bar with colleagues told Le Monde. “A few moments later, it was a scene straight out of a war. Blood everywhere.”
Stranded people find refuge online
At the Stade de France — the national stadium in Saint-Denis, just outside central Paris — explosions were heard during the soccer game between France and Germany.
Ryu Voelkel was filming the match for work when he heard the blasts, which he said didn’t appear to be “a normal firework sound.”
The bombings took place just outside the stadium, and Voelkel said he didn’t realize what had happened until later. By then, word of the other attacks in Paris was filtering in.
Voelkel found himself stranded — he was supposed to be staying with a friend in the 11th district of Paris, an area where some of the shootings had taken place. He took to Twitter to explain his predicament and found strangers coming to his aid.
“People were just kind of offering me places to stay,” he said. “I ended up at a couple’s place about 10 minutes’ walk from the stadium.”
He was not the only person stuck amid the chaos who received online offers of help. The hashtag #PorteOuverte was trending on Twitter in the early hours of Saturday, Paris time, as Parisians volunteered their homes as shelter.
Facebook users in Paris, meanwhile, were able to notify friends and family that they were OK through the site’s “Safety Check” tool.
Schools, museums, markets closed
The French President’s office announced the state of emergency, which lets authorities to limit people’s movements and impose zones of security and protection.
The presidency said another decree covering the Paris region in particular allows for the house arrest of any person considered dangerous and the closure of public venues among other measures.
President Francois Hollande also announced that border controls would be beefed up, his office said in a statement.
Schools, museums, libraries, swimming pools, food markets and other public facilities will be closed Saturday, the Paris city government said.
Addressing the nation late Friday, a visibly shaken Hollande vowed to overcome the trauma of the attacks.
“There is fear,” he said. “But facing the fear is a nation that knows how to defend itself, knows how to mobilize its forces and will once again defeat the terrorists.”