Parisians search for missing friends, offer blood and shelter after terror outrage
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Parisians search for missing friends, offer blood and shelter after terror outrage

French capital in shutdown mode following Islamic State carnage; panicked residents use social media to look for the dead and injured

  • A woman mourns outside of the Carillon bar in the 10th district of Paris on November 14, 2015, following a series of attacks in and around the city, leaving at least 120 people killed. AFP PHOTO / KENZO TRIBOUILLARD
    A woman mourns outside of the Carillon bar in the 10th district of Paris on November 14, 2015, following a series of attacks in and around the city, leaving at least 120 people killed. AFP PHOTO / KENZO TRIBOUILLARD
  • A man plays piano near the cordened off area around the Bataclan theatre in the 11th district of Paris on November 14, 2015, after a series of attacks on the city resulting in the deaths of at least 120 individuals. (AFP PHOTO / KENZO TRIBOUILLARD)
    A man plays piano near the cordened off area around the Bataclan theatre in the 11th district of Paris on November 14, 2015, after a series of attacks on the city resulting in the deaths of at least 120 individuals. (AFP PHOTO / KENZO TRIBOUILLARD)
  • Flowers, candles and the French national flag with Paris's Latin motto 'Tossed but not sunk' written on it, are laid outside next to a Cambodian restaurant a day after 12 people were killed there, on November 14, 2015. (AFP PHOTO/DOMINIQUE FAGET)
    Flowers, candles and the French national flag with Paris's Latin motto 'Tossed but not sunk' written on it, are laid outside next to a Cambodian restaurant a day after 12 people were killed there, on November 14, 2015. (AFP PHOTO/DOMINIQUE FAGET)

Legendary for its beauty and bustling streets, Paris was in shock and mourning on Saturday after 128 people were killed in the worst terrorist attack in France’s history.

The day after the bloodbath, the city’s major attractions were shuttered from Disneyland in the east and the Eiffel Tower in the center to the Chateau of Versailles in the west, and its picturesque squares and avenues were eerily quiet.

Schools, markets, museums and other tourist sites across the greater Paris area were closed and sporting fixtures were cancelled on the orders of the city or national authorities.

“All city facilities are closed today,” Paris City Hall said on its website (http://www.paris.fr/actualites/fermeture-de-tous-les-equipements-parisiens-3082).

The list comprised schools, museums, libraries, sports halls, swimming pools, tennis courts, food markets and district town halls.

Only civil registration offices, to record marriages, will be open, it said, adding that security would be beefed up at town halls.

A line of people at least 100 meters (yards) long formed outside the city’s main blood donation center to offer their blood, even though no appeal had been made.

Outside a Cambodian restaurant where 12 people were killed, mourners placed flowers, a candle and the French national flag, which had written on it “Fluctuat nec mergitur” — the Latin slogan of Paris, which means “It is buffeted by the waves, yet remains afloat.”

The closures came after simultaneous attacks on a concert hall, restaurants and the Stade de France stadium that left at least 128 dead and 180 injured, 80 of them seriously, according to a toll from police sources.

It was the second terrorist strike in less than 10 months. In January, 17 people were killed in jihadist gun attacks, five of the cartoonists at the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

French soldiers patrol the area at the foot of the Eiffel Tower in Paris on November 14, 2015 following a series of coordinated attacks in and around Paris late Friday which left more than 120 people dead. (AFP PHOTO / FRANCOIS GUILLOT)
French soldiers patrol the area at the foot of the Eiffel Tower in Paris on November 14, 2015 following a series of coordinated attacks in and around Paris late Friday which left more than 120 people dead. (AFP PHOTO / FRANCOIS GUILLOT)

In the Place de la Bourse, a large square near the Paris Opera, traffic was unusually thin and pedestrians were few.

“People are worried,” Jean-Louis Masson, 50, who lives locally, told an AFP reporter.

“You can see that in the SMS messages that are going around. We were concerned for one of our children who was out last night, and we called to make sure she came home.”

Masson’s son, Adrien, 13, said he was a “bit worried. You get to be afraid that something could happen.”

Police said all public demonstrations in the Paris region would be banned until Thursday.

At newspaper kiosks, dramatic headlines and pictures likened Paris to a combat zone, after suspected jihadists attacked crowds and restaurants goers.

“War in the heart of Paris,” the conservative daily Le Figaro said. “This time, it’s war,” Le Parisien said.

Separately, the French secretary of state for sports issued instructions to sports federations to cancel matches this weekend.

Cancelled events include a European Champions Cup rugby match between Racing 92 and the Glasgow Warriors.

Tourist sites closed

The Eiffel Tower was closed according to a message on its website that did not say how long it would remain shuttered.

Disneyland Paris, which is located on the eastern rim of the Paris region, said it would not open on Saturday “in light of the recent tragic events in France and in support of our community and the victims of these horrendous attacks.”

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to all of those affected by these horrible events,” it said.

The Paris Opera cancelled its concerts for Saturday, and the city’s philharmonic orchestra said its venue would close all weekend.

Irish rock band U2 also called off a Paris concert planned for Saturday.

The Chateau of Versailles, the Louvre and other Paris museums opened early Saturday but then closed.

A woman weeps at a vigil held by the local French community in Sydney on November 14, 2015. (AFP PHOTO / William WEST)
A woman weeps at a vigil held by the local French community in Sydney on November 14, 2015. (AFP PHOTO / William WEST)

Paris’ Bateaux-Mouches tourist boats, which provide excursions on the Seine, said it would maintain its schedule.

“We will have added security — searches and no large luggage allowed onboard, and we will have more security guards onboard,” a switchboard operator said.

Parisians search for friends, shelter online

Meanwhile, survivors of the attacks seeking shelter and people worried about friends or families all took to social media overnight for help.

Using the hashtag #rechercheParis, many posted poignant appeals on Twitter to find loved ones who had been close to the bloodshed which hit six locations including at the Stade de France national stadium and a rock concert at Bataclan theatre.

“If anyone has news of Lola, aged 17, at #Bataclan this evening, contact us,” read one post, while another expressed concern for a friend Thibault, who was also at the concert. “He’s not getting back to me: help me”, it read.

Others who managed to track down their loved ones tweeted their gratitude: “Thanks to all for your RT (retweets), Alice Q is alive!”

France’s interior ministry also set up an official platform www.securite.interieur.gouv.fr asking for any information “that may be useful to advance the investigation, identify the victims and warn of new acts”.

It said police would “quickly contact” users looking for missing people.

Some Twitter feeds remained ominously silent after initially announcing the start of the concert at the Bataclan, where more than 80 people were killed by gunmen wielding AK47s.

Eight attackers struck numerous locations around the capital, leaving at least 128 people dead on Friday night, in the worst bloodshed in Europe since the 2004 Madrid train bombings.

Thousands of Parisians used the hashtag #PorteOuverte (open door) to offer places to stay for people left stranded — particularly in areas that had been attacked — as police ramped up security measures, cordoning off the areas that were hit and partially suspending public transport.

The hashtag was re-posted 480,000 times throughout the night, making it the second-most used keyword on Twitter in France after #fusillade (shooting) which was used 700,000 times.

“If people are stranded, I can accommodate two or three people on Rue des Martyrs,” wrote one, while WroteGabDeLioncourt said: “Our sofa is always available for two/three people in Maraichers”.

Others set up an emergency website porteouverte.eu to help people find temporary shelter.

Facebook also launched a “Paris Terror Attacks” check-in feature to let people signal that they were safe to friends and acquaintances on the social networking site.

“Quickly find and connect with friends in the area,” a message from the Facebook Safety Check service read. “Mark them safe if you know they’re OK.”

The feature also allows people to check which friends in Paris had not yet checked in as safe.

“We are shocked and saddened by the events unfolding in Paris,” a Facebook spokesman told AFP.

“Communication is critical in these moments both for people there and for their friends and families anxious for news.”

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