Terror casts shadow over City of Light

2015-11-14 21:15


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Paris -The Eiffel Tower was closed, the Champs-Elysees was lifeless and museums, markets and schools were shuttered on Saturday as Paris reeled after the bloodiest terror attack in French history.

A city famed for its glamour and bustling streets seemed garbed in mourning as Parisians struggled with the shock of the multiple attacks that claimed scores of lives.

On Saturday night, when the streets would normally be thronged with weekend revellers, an eerie silence descended on the city.

A few dozen people defied a ban on assembly to gather in Place de la Republique, a stone's throw from where the attacks took place and where a vast crowd came to mark the Charlie Hebdo attacks in January.

"This is the centre of France. This is where we gathered for Charlie," Gabrielle Paoli, 24, told AFP.

Paris City Hall ordered all city facilities closed, including schools, museums, libraries, sports halls, swimming pools, tennis courts, food markets and district town halls.

Only civil registration offices, to record marriages, would be open, authorities said, adding that security would be beefed up at district town halls.

At noon, the city's main cinema chains said they too would close.

A line of people at least 100m long formed outside the city's main blood donation centre to offer their blood.

Outside a Cambodian restaurant where 12 people were killed, mourners placed flowers, a candle and the French tricolore.

On the national flag were written the defiant words "Fluctuat nec mergitur" - the Latin slogan of Paris, meaning "It is buffeted by the waves, yet remains afloat."

Fresh terror attack

The closures came after simultaneous assaults on a concert hall, restaurants and the Stade de France stadium.

It was the second terror strike in less than 10 months. In January, 17 people were killed, including five of the cartoonists at the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, in jihadist gun attacks.

In the Place de la Bourse, a large square near the Paris Opera, traffic was unusually thin and pedestrians were few.

"People are worried," Jean-Louis Masson, 50, who lives locally, told an AFP reporter.

"You can see that in the SMS messages that are going around. We were concerned for one of our children who was out last night, and we called to make sure she got home."

Masson's son, Adrien, 13, said he was a "bit worried. You get to be afraid that something could happen."

In a cafe, a man who gave his name as Luc, aged 46, said he was stunned.

"I just don't understand. They keep telling us that they've thwarted attacks, that they've made arrests, and here you've got guys shooting at everyone in a concert hall in the centre of Paris.

"They're unable to protect this city, that's what it's about."

The street outside the Galeries Lafayette department store was empty, after the emporium - which initially declared it would remain open - closed its doors.

At the approach of the Christmas season, the store's glitzy windows are usually crowded by young Parisians and tourists eager to watch automated puppets in scenes from popular tales.

On Saturday, the puppets went through their movements without an audience as fairy music played in the background. A line of Star Wars stormtroopers stood grimly to attention, impressing no one.

At the Starbucks coffee house in the Boulevard Haussmann, a barista shrugged his shoulders. He and his colleague had seen three customers in an hour and a half.

"It's empty," he said. "Normally, we have five or six people here at any one time. They are often tourists who stay in hotels in the Opera district and want to save on the cost of breakfast."

Around the Champs-Elysees, Gucci, Zara and other brand stores were closed and cafe terraces were empty.

At newspaper kiosks, dramatic headlines and pictures likened Paris to a combat zone, after jihadists attacked crowds and restaurants goers.

"War in the heart of Paris," the conservative daily Le Figaro said. "This time, it's war," Le Parisien said.

Police said all public demonstrations in the Paris area would be banned until Thursday, and the French secretary of state for sports issued instructions to regional sports federations to cancel matches this weekend.

Tourist sites closed

The Eiffel Tower, normally visited by up to 20 000 people a day, will be closed "until further notice," a spokesperson told AFP.

Disneyland Paris, which is located on the eastern rim of the Paris region, said it would not open on Saturday "in light of the recent tragic events in France and in support of our community and the victims of these horrendous attacks."

The Paris Opera cancelled its concerts for Saturday, and the city's philharmonic orchestra said its venue would close all weekend.

Irish rock band U2 also called off a Paris concert planned for Saturday.

The Palace of Versailles, the Louvre and other Paris museums opened early Saturday but then closed.

Paris' Bateaux-Mouches tourist boats, which provide excursions on the Seine, said it would maintain its schedule.

"We will have added security - searches and no large luggage allowed onboard, and we will have more security guards onboard," a switchboard operator said.

Read more on:    france  |  paris under attack

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