A senior member of Ulster University staff caught up in last night’s terror attacks in Paris says the scene in the city this morning looks as if it is ‘business as usual.
Professor Paddy Gray has been associated with Magee college in Derry for many years and is an expert in housing. He was in Paris for business reasons and had ventured into the Paris last night to watch the football match between the Republic of Ireland and Bosnia-Herzegovina.
A least 127 people were killed in Paris and the death toll is expected to rise. Islamic State has claimed responsibility fo the attacks. A state of emergency has been declared in France. The French President has described the attacks an act of war. Border restrictions have been put in place and a curfew has been put in place in Paris for the first time since WWII.
Professor Paddy Gray told the ‘Journal’ that the atmosphere in paris last night was one of “panic”.
“Basically, I had been in a restaurant and went to a bar to watch the match. I became aware that something had happened and went to the door to see what was going on. I still had no idea of the extent of what had actually happened,” he said.
Mr Gray was staying in the Place de la République, which was the scene of one of the attacks and is right in the centre of Paris.
He described how a woman abandoned her car as the attacks unfolded and ran away. However, by standers including Paddy Gray said they thought it was a car bomb and began to run away from the area.
“I ended up in an entry with French people. I have no idea how we got there. We just ran. We hid there for about 30 minutes and could hear gunfire and explosions. Then a man opened up his house from us and we stayed there fir trhe next two hours until it was over,” he said.
Professor Gray is due to travel home tomorrow and says he is intent in getting some sleep today as he has been awake all night. Describing the scene in Paris this morning he said: “I don’t know what a normal day is like in Paris but there are a lot of people out there moving about as normal despite what has happened.”
The French Government has issued an appeal for people to come forward and donate blood in advance of a shortage of supply to treat the wounded. The death toll is also expected to rise significantly. Last night’s massacre is the second major terrorist incident in Paris this year. In January Jihadists attacked the office of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and killed 12 people after the publication of cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed.