Paris in state of ‘sadness and shock’

2015-11-16 14:28

Pietermaritzburg - South Africans abroad, especially in the vicinity of the areas of Paris where terrorist attacks claimed the lives of 129 and injured a further 352, told the story of a relaxed city thrown into high alert.

Matthew Temple, formerly of Pietermaritzburg and now living in London, was spending “a fun weekend” in Paris with his girlfriend when the terror attacks unfolded.

“My girlfriend and I were out for dinner near Notre Dame, but we were staying just around the corner from the Stade de France where the bombing took place. I received a message from a friend asking if I was okay. My girlfriend then received a call; someone asked if she was okay. We used our cellphones to read the news on what had happened and saw how terrible it was,” he said.

Temple said that staff and management at the restaurant were unaware that other parts of the city were in turmoil after the attacks and it was business as usual.

“We decided we should make our way back to where we were staying. The first tube station was closed, but luckily the second was open. When we got out the tube near where we were staying, the scene was completely different with a massive police and military presence everywhere,” he said.

Temple was making his way back to London from Paris when The Witness spoke to him yesterday.

“On Saturday we thought we would go about doing what we originally intended to do and visit a local flea market but only about 20% of the stalls were open. It really is a scene of melancholy, really not positive at all.”

Former South African journalist Marcelle Balt has lived in Paris for just over three years after moving there from Pretoria.

Her flat is situated about two kilometres away from one of the restaurants where an attack took place.

“The feeling in Paris is of sadness and shock. People are stunned into silence. There are no real calls for action yet, just a time of mourning for the victims. There are fewer people in the streets and more shops are closed than usual. There is also a very high military and police presence, especially at key transport hubs and tourist areas,” she said.

The French government has deployed the maximum military presence following Friday night’s events and three days of mourning have been declared.

“The atmosphere in the city has changed. With the Charlie Hebdo attacks people were defiant. Now it’s more a case of shock, and God forbid, what next?” she said.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  paris attacks

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