Shocked S'poreans in Paris lock up indoors

A forensic investigator at the scene of the attack near the Stade de France in Saint Denis, suburban Paris, on Friday. Singaporeans staying near the attack sites called the experience a nightmare.
A forensic investigator at the scene of the attack near the Stade de France in Saint Denis, suburban Paris, on Friday. Singaporeans staying near the attack sites called the experience a nightmare.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Singaporeans in Paris were in disbelief and shock after yesterday's terror attacks, and most who spoke to The Sunday Times were unable to sleep after a night of gunfire and blasts. Calling the experience a nightmare, Singaporeans staying near the sites of the deadly assaults locked themselves in their apartments as the attacks continued.

Among them was 23-year-old Loh Wei Ming, who was staying at an apartment in Rue Herold, just two streets from where several of the shootings occurred. The third-year University of Warwick law student was in Paris on holiday with a Singaporean friend.

When he returned to the apartment at around 10pm, he locked all doors. "If we had stayed out for another half an hour, we might have got caught in the whole thing."

Three Singapore Management University (SMU) students, on an exchange programme since August, were at a metro station and unaware of the attacks until friends and relatives here messaged them. They ran back to their apartment, a 10-minute walk from the Bataclan concert venue where attackers struck. Student Diana Poh, 22, said there was panic in the neighbourhood: "Even in our apartment, we could hear screams and shouts."

SMU said last evening that all 70 students on exchange programmes in France, including 35 in or near Paris, are confirmed to be safe.

AFRAID TO GO OUT

People are scared. They do not know if they can walk around the streets and feel safe.

MR JOSHUA TAN, 34, a Paris-based Singaporean IT manager, on how the city has turned into a ghost town overnight

Paris-based Singaporean IT manager Joshua Tan, 34, said the city had turned into a ghost town. "People are scared. They do not know if it is safe to walk around the streets."

Chan Brothers Travel, which had three tour groups in Paris on the night of the attacks, confirmed that all 80 travellers were safe.

Dynasty Travel said all of its 30 Singaporean travellers who were in the city yesterday morning were accounted for. The firm's spokesman Alicia Seah said customers had called to express concerns, but it had not seen cancellations yet.

Administrative manager Joanna Loh, 40, who is visiting Paris with her civil servant husband and two sons, aged nine and 11, later this month, told The Sunday Times the family is going ahead with the trip.

"It is all right to be cautious," she said, "but it shouldn't cripple us."

At the Embassy of France in Bukit Timah, flowers and messages such as "Praying for Paris" were left outside. A French citizen who works at the embassy and wanted to be known only as Jerome was seen placing a single red rose. "We have to remain strong, stand firm. It is comforting to see that people have dropped by to place flowers."

French citizens arriving at Changi Airport's Terminal 1 yesterday afternoon were shocked to find out about the attacks. Parisians Thomas Becelewski and Agnes Courtay are from a theatre crew and are here to perform. "It is a big shock," said Ms Courtay, 34. She and Mr Becelewski used to work at music venue Bataclan. That was where the worst attack took place.

Mr Xavier Courboin, 52, a managing director who has been working here for about two years, was at the airport to receive a friend. He said: "We are in shock. But we are also angry, because the secret services should have been give more resources to do their job."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 15, 2015, with the headline 'Shocked S'poreans in Paris lock up indoors'. Print Edition | Subscribe