An Aberdeen man who fled for his life after chaos erupted all around him in the wake of the New Zealand terrorist attack said he fell into a “complete panic” soon after the shooting began.
A total of 49 people were killed and at least 48 were wounded in two shootings at a pair of mosques in Christchurch.
One man in his late 20s has been arrested and charged with murder, and will appear in court on Saturday. Two other armed suspects were last night being held in custody.
Although police in New Zealand have not named any of the suspects, one man who identified himself as Brenton Tarrant, 28, from Australia, appeared to have live-streamed the terror attack in Christchurch and outlined his anti-immigrant motives in a manifesto posted online.
The attacks took place during Friday prayers.
Yesterday Stevie Taylor, who moved to New Zealand from Aberdeen in December, said he “feared for the worst” when sirens started sounding close to the building site he was working at, a short distance away from the scene of the first attack.
Mr Taylor, 27, left Aberdeen to travel to New Zealand as part of a trip to see more of the world.
At first, Mr Taylor and his colleagues had no idea what was happening, initially believing the alarms, sirens and general panic sweeping through the New Zealand city were signs of another earthquake, similar to the 6.2-level seismic disaster that destroyed massive swathes of the city in 2011.
He and his co-workers had been working at a building site a short distance from the Al Noor mosque in central Christchurch when the shooting started.
The former Aberdeen Grammar pupil rushed home and secured his doors and windows, as per the instructions of local authorities.
Speaking from Christchurch, he said: “It’s been like an adrenaline rush all day. It all kicked off just after lunchtime.
“I’m working on a building site just a wee walk away from the mosque. Everything was going normally, but suddenly we just started hearing sirens blaring from every direction.
“Immediately, all of us who were working knew something really bad was happening, a lot of the guys thought it was a repeat of the big earthquake from a few years ago, because with all the alarms and sirens going off there was the same sort of terrified atmosphere.
“The street that I work on was covered in SWAT cars, they were flying past every minute, and loads of police cars going back and forth, so that must have been when they found out that there were attacks in at least two places, the first mosque and the second mosque.”
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the terror attack was “one of New Zealand’s darkest days”.
When the gunman entered the Al Noor mosque, there were around 400 people inside.
After leaving the scene of the first terror attack, the terrorist or terrorists then moved on to the Linwood mosque, where a further 10 people were killed.
Schools across the city were placed on lockdown, as well as the Christchurch hospital.
Officers also discovered explosive devices in a car, which were defused.
All mosques across New Zealand have been urged to close their doors for the time being, and in Scotland, police have stepped up patrols around mosques – however, officers insist there is no intelligence to suggest a specific threat in this country.
Mr Taylor added: “In all truthfulness I was in a complete panic. Everyone rushed home, and we locked the doors and it was only when we put on the news we realised exactly how close we were to the shooting.
“I hate to think about it, but really when we were getting away I was fearing for the worst, I mean anything could have happened to us.
“I’ve only been here for four months and it’s always felt so safe here, but now the feeling has completely changed.”