NEW Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has described as “unprecedented” a terrorist attack in that nation’s third major city, Christchurch, which at present is said to be ongoing.
He said that at least 49 people were confirmed dead.
According to the BBC, multiple fatalities have been reported and major hospitals in Christchurch are on full-alert after an active shooter, up to press time, remained at large after an attack on a mosque in the city.
Police warned people to avoid the area and all schools and a hospital are in lockdown.
Eyewitnesses have reported people running for their lives to escape the shooter.
Unverified footage purportedly taken by the shooter has emerged, suggesting he filmed as he shot victims.
Mohan Ibrahim, who was in the area of the mosque, told the New Zealand Herald: "At first we thought it was an electric shock but then all these people started running. I still have friends inside.
"I have been calling my friends but there are many I haven't heard from. I am scared for my friends lives."
In an address to the nation, aired “live” even as the situation remained active and the hunt was ongoing for the gunman, PM Ardern described the incident as “unprecedented” and “one of New Zealand’s darkest days.”
Police said that once the situation is contained, they fear that the body count – up to double-figures at the time of this report – could rise.
"I would describe it as an unprecedented act of violence. An act that has absolutely no place in New Zealand. This is not who we are," Ardern told the nation. It appears the shooting targeted immigrants, some of whom hid in the mosque when the shooting began.
The incident took place at the Al Noor mosque on Dean Avenue. It faces Hagley Park, a large open space east of downtown Christchurch.
Witnesses say about 300 people were inside the Al Noor mosque at the time of the shooting, taking part in Friday prayers. Among them were the Bangladesh national cricket team, in New Zealand for a test match. One suspect is said to be in custody.