Tourists flee in panic from Tunisia resort attack

Tourists flee in panic from Tunisia resort attack
Tunisians wave their national flag and chant slogans during a march against extremism outside Tunis' Bardo Museum on March 29, 2015.
PHOTO: AFP

LONDON - British holidaymakers caught up in the attacks Friday in the Tunisian resort of Sousse said tourists ran from the beach in panic when they realised they were under gunfire.

Gary Pine, a product manager from Bristol in southwest England, said he heard an estimated 20 to 30 shots before tourists ran to their hotels for cover.

"Over to our left, about 100 yards (metres) or so away, we saw what we thought was firecrackers going off," he told Britain's Sky News television by telephone.

"But you could see quite quickly the panic that was starting to ensue from the next resort along from us.

"People were exiting the beach pretty quick.

"Only when you could start hearing bullets whizzing around your ear do you realise it was something a lot more serious than firecrackers.

"There was a mass exodus off the beach.

"My son was in the sea at the time and of course my wife and myself were shouting for him to get out the sea quick and as we ran up the beach he said: 'I just saw someone get shot.'

"As we exited the beach... there was some kind of explosion from the complex next door. So we knew that a situation was developing, if not had ended.

"I'm now stood in reception with probably 200 other international guests. Do we leave? Do we stay? Where do we go? What do we do?"

Pine said his hotel's initial advice was for people to lock themselves in their rooms, but then they asked guests to gather in reception.

He said there would have been several hundred people from each hotel on the beach.

"The gunshots I heard, I estimate 20 or 30 shots, it seemed to be quite a bit, hence I thought it was firecrackers. It seemed to break out from nothing at all."

Susan Ricketts, who is on holiday in Sousse with her sister, told Sky News: "We were in our hotel and then we heard some gunfire but we didn't know what it was.

"Everybody just started running in and screaming. The whole place just cleared."

She said there were "people crying and going hysterical."

Meanwhile a Dublin woman described what she saw when the attack happened.

Speaking to Ireland's RTE radio, Elizabeth O'Brien, who is on holiday with her two boys, said: "I thought it was fireworks and then I thought, 'Oh my God, it sounds like gunfire'.

"I just ran as soon as I heard the noise.

"I ran to the sea to my children and grabbed our things and, as I was running towards the hotel, the waiters and the security on the beach started shouting 'Run, run, run'.

"We are actually trapped in our room... I'm afraid."

Friday's mass shooting in Sousse, which killed dozens including foreigners, is the North African country's worst attack in recent history.

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