Paris terror attacks: Survivors and victims

Survivors share graphic accounts of carnage

Ms Isobel Bowdery, 22, took to Facebook late on Saturday, posting riveting details of the ordeal she went through. Her post has been shared more than 700,000 times with hundreds expressing their solidarity.
Ms Isobel Bowdery, 22, took to Facebook late on Saturday, posting riveting details of the ordeal she went through. Her post has been shared more than 700,000 times with hundreds expressing their solidarity.PHOTO: FACEBOOK PAGE OF ISOBEL BOWDERY

Harrowing details of attacks emerge on social media, garnering outpouring of sympathy

PARIS • Harrowing details of last Friday's shootings in Paris have emerged, with survivors giving graphic accounts of the horrific carnage that took place.

Among them, one female survivor's vivid tale of her close brush with death at the sold-out Bataclan theatre triggered an outpouring of sympathy on social media.

Ms Isobel Bowdery, 22, posted a photograph on Facebook of the bloodstained vest she had worn that night and recounted the terror she endured.

Describing the atmosphere when American rock band Eagles of Death Metal had been playing, she said the crowd had been so happy that when the shooting began, the audience believed it was part of the show.

In a case of horrific irony, the slaughter began when the band had just begun singing Kiss The Devil, reported The New Yorker magazine.

"Dozens of people were shot right in front of me. Pools of blood filled the floor. Cries of grown men who held their girlfriends' dead bodies pierced the small music venue," Ms Bowdery wrote.

The University of Cape Town graduate described holding her breath, pretending to be dead for over an hour, and trying not to cry as she lay among "people who could see their loved ones motionless".

She also described the gunmen "meticulously" aiming at people in the centre of the standing area, writing that "the images of those men circling us like vultures will haunt me for the rest of my life".

Another survivor of the concert hall shooting, Mr Loic Wiels, 33, described the "incomprehension in the room", saying: "I felt the blood on the floor, the shockwaves of the people falling around me. I got hit with woodchips sent flying by the bullets, but in the balcony, nobody realised what was happening."

As the audience gradually understood that they were caught in a siege, they tried to escape or make themselves as invisible as possible. But mobile phones were ringing, quickly followed by shooting.

A concertgoer named Celia told The Guardian that "my cellphone was lit because I was going to film parts of the concert, but I didn't have it out... those who took theirs out were killed immediately".

One British survivor described the desperate struggle to escape, reported The Telegraph.

Mr Michael O'Connor, 30, said terrified young concertgoers were caught up in a violent crush and people were "clawing and running and pushing to get away".

He dropped to the ground and pulled his girlfriend down with him, but the crush was so great "there was someone on her head and another person was on my legs".

The couple also heard one of the gunmen state in French that they were "here because of your President Francois Hollande" as the gunfire continued up on the balcony.

Mr O'Connor also said one of the most terrifying moments was hearing the gunman "fumbling with cartridges".

"That was one of the eerier parts," he said. "Just hearing someone methodically reloading his gun so he could start firing at us again."

For another survivor, that moment helped him to escape."When they backed up to reload, I got up and I ran. I ran to the exit and I didn't stop until the Metro," said a 35-year-old who gave his name only as Philippe.

Others, including Mr O'Connor, were not so fortunate and had to lie in wait as the gunfire continued for the next hour until the police arrived.

Describing the scene as he stood up to walk out, he told The Telegraph: "It looked like an abattoir, it looked like a slaughterhouse. I was wading through blood - it was a centimetre deep in places - and climbing over dead bodies to get out."

However, Ms Bowdery said the ordeal also "shed light on the heroes". She thanked the other hostages who helped her through the nightmare.

Her post has been shared more than 700,000 times with hundreds expressing their solidarity. "Beautiful words and thoughts," Facebook user Malindi Bryce wrote. "Your pain is mine and all of ours."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 17, 2015, with the headline 'Survivors share graphic accounts of carnage'. Print Edition | Subscribe