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irish eyewitness

Barcelona terror attack: 'The waiter came over to us with the bill and said we couldn't leave'

Irish woman Aoife Roy was having dinner with friends at a Las Ramblas restaurant when the attack happened.

Spain Barcelona Pedestrians Hit Emergency workers stand on a blocked street in Barcelona, Spain. Manu Fernandez via PA Images Manu Fernandez via PA Images

 The waiter came over to us with the bill and said you can’t leave.
We saw people standing in the restaurant, not eating or drinking, and the restaurant’s shutters were closed.

IRISH TOURIST AOIFE Roy was eating dinner with three friends at a restaurant on Las Ramblas this afternoon when a van drove into a crowd of pedestrians, killing at least 13 people and injuring 80 others.

She told that they had been sitting at the back of the restaurant, and hadn’t realised what was going on until the waiter said they couldn’t leave.

“We were completely clueless… No one knew what was going on.”

A man who spoke English calmly explained to them that a van had driven onto the path.

After a while, the shutters were opened and a policeman with a gun ordered everyone to leave, directing them to the end of the road.

Spain Barcelona Injured people are treated in the immediate aftermath. Oriol Duran via PA Images Oriol Duran via PA Images

“We thought it must not have been that serious, because people were standing around looking at their phones trying to find out what happened.”

Police directed them away from the scene, but they had to double back because their apartment was quite close to Las Ramblas. When they eventually found their street, it was cordoned off with ‘policía’ tape.

“This was our first day here so we didn’t know our way around and weren’t sure where our apartment was. We were lucky we happened to turn onto the right street.”

In the immediate aftermath of the attack, Spanish police closed off streets, suspended some train services and evacuated the area.

Tourists and locals

Spain Barcelona People walk down a main street away from the incident on Las Ramblas. Manu Fernandez via PA Images Manu Fernandez via PA Images

Among those on Las Ramblas when the attack occurred was Aamar Anwar, a Scottish human rights lawyer who was in Barcelona for a conference and had been walking down the boulevard when the terror unfolded.

“All of a sudden I heard a crashing noise and the whole street just started to run screaming,” he told Sky News, describing a scene of panic.

“I saw a woman next to me screaming for her kids.

Literally within 30 seconds, police vans, ambulances, police officers with guns were piling out, and we were sectioned off and then being pushed rapidly back.

Spain Barcelona Pedestrians Hit People speak on their phones as they stand on a street. Manu Fernandez via PA Images Manu Fernandez via PA Images

Las Ramblas, a picturesque, pedestrianised stretch of road and one of Barcelona’s main tourist attractions, had police in the area when the incident occurred.

Aoife said that the response of armed police who were on the scene very quickly was reassuring.

“Van upon van of police officers” arrived, Anwar said. “They have quite clearly unfortunately had to plan for something like this.”

Spain Barcelona A plain-clothed police officer secures the area. Giannis Papanikos via PA Images Giannis Papanikos via PA Images

Another tourist, Susan McLean, who was 100 metres away, said it was terrifying.

“All of a sudden, scores of people ran towards us – hysterical, children hysterical. They first of all said someone had been shot.

“It calmed down for a moment then all of a sudden a second wave of people came down the street. Our hotel was one street away so we got ourselves out,” she told Sky.

“We could see the police, we could see all the cars stopped.
The police were doing their job. We really had no idea what was going on other than we had to get ourselves out of there very quickly.

Tom Gueller, who lives on an adjoining road, fled the scene when he saw the van hurtling through the crowds.

“I heard screams and a bit of a crash and then I just saw the crowd parting and this van going full pelt down the middle of the Ramblas and I immediately knew that it was a terrorist attack or something like that,” he told BBC radio.

Spain Barcelona People flee from the scene of the attack. PA Images PA Images

“I ran away, I mean I live near, I had to run back about 50 metres or so and go up to my flat and obviously see what’s happening on the road from my balcony.”

Asked about the van, he said: “It wasn’t slowing down at all. It was just going straight through the middle of the crowds in the middle of the Ramblas.”

Steve Garrett was in a nearby market and sheltered in a bakery with several others.

“Coming from England, it was reminding me a great deal of what happened in London, so we were very concerned about what might happen next.”

Heartwarming response

When Aoife first messaged her parents and posted to Facebook to let people know she was safe, most people hadn’t heard what had happened.

“When I got back to the apartment, my parents called and asked me ‘What do you mean you’re safe?’”

The line kept cutting in and out as she tried to update them; earlier police advised people to use social media to let loved ones know they were safe to prevent “phone lines from collapsing”.

Their stay is meant to last until next Monday, but the mother of one of her friends wants them to come home as soon as possible. They’re waiting until tomorrow morning for an update, but said that the offers for help have been reassuring.

“We have friends who live in Barcelona and they’ve been offering their homes to us, which has been heartwarming.”

- With reporting from AFP

Barcelona terror attack: Man arrested, at least 13 dead and 80 injured

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