Christchurch shootings: Singaporeans in New Zealand angry and fearful

Singaporeans living in New Zealand witnessed a Christchurch on lockdown following shootings at two mosques yesterday, with people staying indoors.

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

Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said it had reached out to all registered Singaporeans in Christchurch, and thus far, there are no Singaporeans injured.

"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, was at work when the incident occurred at about 1.45pm local time (8.45am Singapore time).

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

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

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

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

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

Even Singaporeans living in other New Zealand cities felt the shock waves 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. The couple were about to board an Air New Zealand flight to Christchurch, where his family lives, when news of the attacks broke.

They had checked in for their flight when her fiance's father called to tell him about it. They then found out that their carrier was offering free changes to all flights into Christchurch, and decided to change their travel plans.

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

But she was also fearful. "I am afraid that Auckland will be next since it is a big city too."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 16, 2019, with the headline Christchurch shootings: Singaporeans in New Zealand angry and fearful. Subscribe