Paris attacks: Eyewitness accounts

  • 16 November 2015
  • From the section Europe
Rescuers move a victim of an attack in the French capital Paris, on November 13, 2015. Image copyright AFP
Image caption Extreme violence has visited the streets of Paris for the second time in a year

As least 129 people were killed in multiple gun and bomb attacks in Paris on 13 November. Shocked eyewitnesses caught up in the violence have been telling the media about their experiences.

Bataclan - 'screaming and clawing'

The Bataclan concert venue, in the 11th district, was one of the main attack sites.

Gunmen stormed the concert hall, leaving 89 dead.

Michael O'Connor, from South Shields in the UK, was trapped next to the stage where the Eagles of Death Metal were playing when the gunmen burst in and start firing into the crowd.

He told BBC Radio 5 live's Stephen Nolan show: "We heard a loud bang, but I think we thought it was just part of the set. I didn't react at first, and then I heard people screaming behind me and I turned around... and I think there was two people. They entered from the back of the arena and they just started to open fire with what looked like AK 47s.

Media captionMichael O'Connor: "People falling all over the place, people screaming"

"Obviously I just grabbed my girlfriend and pulled her with me and tried to make my way towards the exit. There was a small fire exit to the right of the stage but a lot of us all went for it at the same time and there was a bit of a crush, we couldn't all get out.

"It was an automatic rifle, firing into the crowd, people falling all over the place, people screaming and just clawing and running and pushing to get away. Awful, it was so full as well, I think it was sold out.

"Once they'd emptied their magazines, everybody kind of got back up and tried to make another dash for the exit and then he just reloaded and tried to fire into all of us again.

"When he started to shoot again, we just hit the floor... I pulled my girlfriend underneath me and I lay on top of her. I thought I was going to die."


'They were very young'

Julien Pierce, a journalist from Europe 1 radio, was inside the Bataclan concert hall when the shooting began. In a report posted on the station's website, Mr Pierce said:

"Several armed men came into the concert. Two or three men, not wearing masks, came in with what looked like Kalashnikovs and fired blindly on the crowd.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Survivors were evacuated from the Bataclan hall

"It lasted between 10 and 15 minutes. It was extremely violent and there was panic. The attackers had enough time to reload at least three times. They were very young.

"There were bodies everywhere."


'Sounded like fireworks'

Jonathon Hill from Cardiff is currently working in Paris. He says he saw a man directing people into the Bataclan concert hall:

"I was getting cash out of an ATM outside the Metro station which is probably about 50-70 yards [metres] away from the Bataclan itself. As I was collecting my cash, I heard three distinct firing shots that at first I didn't believe were actual shots from a gun. They almost sounded like fireworks cracking off in the middle of the street.

Image copyright EPA

"And while that happened I saw a guy probably 6ft 4 to 6ft 5, quite a heavy-set man, looked Caucasian from about 50 yards away. And he was in the middle of the street shouting "Allez! Allez!" at people. He almost seemed to be a good Samaritan telling people to get out of from the cafes and go inside. As that happened I saw another shot and I saw someone collapse to the floor outside the Bataclan."


'It's war here'

An unnamed witness, who was in the standing area at the Bataclan rock concert and encountered a gunman before fleeing, was quoted by Liberation.

"It was a concert where the music was loud. I heard the shots, I turned around and I saw a silhouette with a cap who stood near the back door. He fired in my direction.

"People began to drop and throw themselves to the ground. I thought that the guy next to me was dead. I think this is the case.

"I ran, I jumped the barrier and left with the first wave of the crowd near the stage. I went out through the emergency exit at the opposite end of the room.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption People gathered near the Bataclan concert hall after the attacks

"We hid in a cafe, barricaded on the first floor. When we told people what had happened they believed us immediately. It's war here. There were shots fired just a very short time ago.

"All we can hear are sirens. We are waiting to be evacuated from the Boulevard du Calvaire cafe."


Stade de France - 'We heard two big bangs'

Three attackers and a bystander were killed at the stadium in St Denis, just north of Paris, where France were playing Germany in an international football match.

Media captionElya Haddad, who was at the Stade de France, said fans heard the blasts but learned of the attacks through their phones

Liberation newspaper has quoted Vincent, a journalist who was at the scene.

"Everybody went on to the pitch. The crowd of anxious people began moving after the final whistle, no-one knew what had happened outside. We heard two big bangs in the first half and then another one that was smaller. A helicopter was in the air above the stadium after half time.

"The match carried on as if nothing had happened but we were following everything on Twitter, especially the fact that President Hollande had been evacuated even though none of us saw him leave. I didn't see any of the second half. There was an announcement that people should leave via the south, north and west exits but five minutes later many of the spectators had returned."


Saved by a phone

Sylvestre was at the Stade de France sports stadium when bombs went off there.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Spectators gathered in the football field as they waited for security clearance to leave the stadium

He said he was saved by his mobile phone, which he was holding to his ear when it was hit by debris from the blast.

"Everything was blown to bits and I felt stuff flying around," he was quoted as saying by Reuters. "This is the cell phone that took the hit, it's what saved me. Otherwise my head would have been blown to bits," he said, showing the phone's smashed screen.


Central Paris

There were gun attacks on bars and restaurants in other parts of Paris, in the 10th and 11th districts, killing at least 39 people.

Media captionParis attacks: Key locations

'Kept shooting'

A man described coming face to face with two of the attackers while in a bar on Friday evening.

He told French TV: "We heard what we thought were firecrackers. We turned around and I saw two young people, no older than 25, with Kalashnikovs.

"They asked us to lie down, one of them was doing this, so the whole room lay down. They kept shooting but stopped every now and then."


'Scary situation'

Paul Taylor, a British comedian living in Paris, was about to go on stage at a club close to one of the restaurants that was attacked.

He told the BBC he saw people running towards the venue "crying and not really knowing what was happening, just in shock".

"After asking them what had happened, they said they had seen some people drive up to a restaurant about 100 metres down the road and just shoot people who were sitting down.

"There were no official reports... and eventually I went on stage. As soon as I did the place got evacuated by armed police... Everyone on that street was getting evacuated."

He added: "It was a pretty crazy and scary situation. There were armed police everywhere, sirens, and people in a panic."


'Pretty horrific'

Media captionCharlie Pitt described seeing "a pile of bodies" outside a cafe

Ben Grant was in a bar with his wife when one of the shootings occurred. They saw six or seven bodies on the ground and were told shots had been fired from cars, he said.

"There are lots of dead people. It's pretty horrific to be honest... I was at the back of the bar. I couldn't see anything," he added.

"I heard gunshots. People dropped to the ground. We put a table over our heads to protect us.

"We were held up in the bar because there was a pile of bodies in front of us."


'Waving for help'

Marie Caban lives above the Casa Nostra restaurant, and spoke to the BBC's Gavin Lee.

"She had just returned home from a long shift in the office, when she heard gunfire. I met her this afternoon, as she stood outside the restaurant, shaking, sweating and staring in disbelief at the bullet holes in the window.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Tributes and flowers were left near the restaurant

"She told me she can't shake the image of what she saw from out her window; the bodies of two men in the entrance, one still alive, waving for help. She says she glanced at the attacker, and crouched down to hide herself from view.

"Maria, frozen in panic, watched as people ran for their lives. Eventually she was evacuated from her building, and slept with a crowd of neighbours in a building nearby, under armed police guard."


Cambodian restaurant attack

Pierre Montfort lives near Petit Cambodge, a restaurant close to Rue Bichat, where one of the shootings took place.

"We heard gunfire, 30 seconds of fire, it was interminable, we thought it was fireworks," he told AFP.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Police search for shooters who attacked Le Petit Cambodge restaurant

An eyewitness who had been at the restaurant said everyone dropped on the floor.

"A girl was carried by a young man in his arms. She appeared to be dead."


'In shock'

Francois Sergent lives close to one the restaurants that was attacked and said his neighbourhood has been left stunned.

He told the BBC: "Everybody is in a kind of, I would say, utter disbelief. Nobody close to me was a victim of what happened last night but the neighbourhood, the streets I am walking every day - it was quite a shock for all of us this morning."