Anger and anxiety among Singaporeans in New Zealand following Christchurch terror attack

Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it and the Singapore High Commission in Wellington have reached out to all registered Singaporeans in Christchurch and thus far, there are no Singaporeans injured in the shooting incidents. PHOTO: AFP

SINGAPORE - Singaporeans living in New Zealand witnessed a Christchurch on lockdown following shootings at two mosques on Friday (March 15), with people staying indoors and taking precautions.

Shops and supermarkets, which usually open later on Fridays, closed early.

At least 49 people were killed and dozens injured in the terror attack.

Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it and the Singapore High Commission in Wellington had reached out to all registered Singaporeans in Christchurch, and thus far, there are no Singaporeans injured in the shooting incidents.

"But we are providing assistance to some Singaporeans who have contacted MFA because their family members are in Christchurch. The Singapore High Commission will continue to liaise closely with the New Zealand authorities and monitor the situation," it added.

Singaporean Martini Pons, 45, who works in a signage firm and has lived in Christchurch for almost 15 years, told The Straits Times that the area where the mosques are located is "usually very busy and bustling".

Ms Pons, who was at work when the incident occurred at about 1.45pm, was concerned for the safety of her children, who were in school. She noticed many police cars and ambulances along the route from her office to their school.

And when she reached Queenspark School to pick up her nine-year-old son and 10-year-old daughter at 3pm, all the schoolchildren were not allowed to leave. The school was under lockdown as a precautionary measure due to the attack. She and other parents had to wait until about 5.45pm before the lockdown was lifted and children could leave the school premises.

"It's actually pretty scary," she said of the situation. "The cordon and lockdown have been lifted but we have all been advised by the government not to go out if it's not necessary."

Another Singaporean living in Christchurch, Mr Tan W. K., 30, said he feels disgusted that "someone would be so meticulous and conniving to plan an attack against such an innocent group of people", especially on a day when Muslims gather for mid-day prayers at mosques.

One of the mosques attacked, the Al Noor Mosque, is located near Hagley Park, which Mr Tan noted is a busy area with facilities like a golf course and is a popular spot for people to jog and cycle.

Mr Tan, a postgraduate student at the University of Canterbury, was at home when news of the shooting broke. But he could not go far. "I'm living on campus, so the university was on lockdown until the police announced it was lifted," he said.

He expects the days ahead will be tough as the Christchurch community recovers from the shocking tragedy. But he added: "The people here are made of stern stuff. We'll probably rally around each other and help each other move on."

Even Singaporeans living in other New Zealand cities felt the shockwaves from what Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called "one of New Zealand's darkest days".

Ms Celia Loo, 28, who works in a retail company, lives in Auckland with her fiance and the couple were about to take an Air New Zealand flight to Christchurch, where his family lives, when news of the attack broke.

They had already checked in for the flight when her fiance's father called to tell him about it. "We checked the news and found out more about the shooting," said Ms Loo.

They learnt that their carrier was offering free changes to all flights into Christchurch, and decided to cancel their flight.

"We will definitely not be going back to Christchurch in the next few weeks, just to be safe," she said, adding that she feels very angry about the attack.

But she is also fearful, saying: "I'm afraid that Auckland will be next since it's a big city too."

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