Community members in Christchurch, New Zealand pulled together in the midst of the mass shootings that have claimed the lives of at least 49 worshippers in two of the city’s mosques to render aid to victims—including a 5-year-old girl—as they waited for first responders to arrive, reports said Friday.
Residents recounted similar stories to the New Zealand Herald of hearing rapid sprays of gunfire and seeing people running for their lives. There were no police or ambulances at the scene when the shooting started, so workers and residents rushed to help as many victims as they could while bullets continued to fly inside the mosque, the paper reported.
"We heard rapid-fire semi-automatic shots and saw people running out of the mosque, fall on the ground in front of us on the side of the road," Carl Pomare, a manager for employment agency Naki Labour Hire, told the Herald of the scene outside the Masjid Al Noor mosque. "I said to my mate, 'We need to do something.'"
Pomare told the paper he and his colleague crossed over several bodies — including children — lying on the footpath when they came upon a young girl and her father.
"One girl looked about 5 years old, she was critical, and her father had also been shot,” he said. “He was nursing her. We just thinking, 'Come on ambulance, come on.'"
But Pomare and other community members knew they couldn’t wait for an ambulance, quickly deciding to put the child and her father in the back of an SUV and rush them to a hospital themselves, the paper reported.
Another victim died in the arms of his colleague as they nursed him for half an hour, Pomare told the paper.
Another Christchurch resident, who has requested his name not be used, recalled to the Herald how he was woken up by booming gunfire and a wounded Muslim man who had escaped the Masjid Al Noor mosque and fled to his nearby home.
"I was just in an utter panic," the man told the paper.
He said he and his three roommates acted quickly, calling an ambulance and police while applying pressure to the bullet wound in the man’s leg, the paper reported.
"It's just human nature to help someone in that situation," he said.
The New Zealand police said four people -- three men and one woman -- were in custody in connection with the “well-planned” terrorist attack. Thirty people were killed at the Masjid Al Noor mosque in central Christchurch and seven were slain inside the Linwood mosque. Another three died outside the Linwood mosque. Dozens more were injured.
Mass shootings in New Zealand are exceedingly rare. The deadliest in modern history occurred in the small town of Aramoana in 1990, when gunman David Gray shot and killed 13 people following a dispute with a neighbor. Now the community was left shocked by the mass shootings on Friday.
"I just can't believe it has happened,” Pomare told the Herald. “We put ourselves at risk, but in the spur of the moment you don't think of your own safety, just these bodies that were lying there, just ordinary people."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.