Singaporean misses attack by 10 minutes

Singaporean Sharon Sheares standing at the La Boqueria market, on Aug 16, 2017, next to Las Ramblas street in Barcelona, which was hit by a terrorist attack, on Aug 17.

Ten minutes. That was how close Singaporean Sharon Sheares was to being caught in the terror attack that hit Barcelona's tourist street Las Ramblas on Thursday.

Instead, language difficulties which delayed her journey there ended up helping her.

The 48-year-old had visited the street earlier in the day, and wanted to go there one last time before leaving Spain. Mrs Sheares, who works in retail, was vacationing around Europe with her husband, retiree Glenn Sheares, 70. They are Singapore citizens based in Australia.

On Thursday, at about 4.30pm, she left her husband at the hotel and dropped by a store on the way to Las Ramblas. Communication difficulties slowed her down, and she missed a bus to Las Ramblas.

She got on the next bus 10 minutes later, and when it halted two stops away from Las Ramblas just after 4.45pm, she noticed that it was taking a very long time to move off.

The terrorist attack occurred at around 4.50pm.

Five minutes later, the bus driver told passengers to get off, but could not explain why. When Mrs Sheares alighted, she saw police vehicles drive past, and assumed there had been an accident on Las Ramblas. She decided to take the metro back to her hotel about 5km away.

It was chaotic on the train. The driver was shouting, people were on their mobile phones, and the train even skipped several stations.

But it was only when she returned to her hotel that her relieved husband told her about the attack. Shaken, she stayed in the hotel for the rest of the evening. Yesterday, she set off on a cruise.

She told The Straits Times: "I was really thankful I was not on the first bus because I would have been caught up in the chaos."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 19, 2017, with the headline Singaporean misses attack by 10 minutes. Subscribe