At least one person has died and dozens have been injured after a white van ploughed into a crowd of people in Las Ramblas area of Barcelona, in what Catalan police say is a potentially ongoing terrorist attack.
Death tolls from the attack on an area popular with tourists vary considerably. While the authorities have confirmed a single death and said 32 are injured, Spanish radio said as many as 13 had died.
Two armed men were also reported to have entered a restaurant near the site of the crash and witnesses said the men had taken hostages, though that was not confirmed by authorities. Police are due to hold a press conference on the latest developments.
Police say they have activated the protocols for a terror attack.
The El Pais newspaper reported that the driver of the vehicle had fled on foot and that police are still looking for a man about 1.70 metres tall, wearing a white and blue stripped shirt.
The van entered the pedestrian street from Placa de Catalunya and reportedly zigzagged across the street before crashing into a kiosk on La Rambla.
Emergency services are urging people to avoid the area and requested the closure of nearby train and metro stations.
Ambulances and bomb disposal crews have gathered en masse at the scene.
Ethan Spidey, 25, told The Independent there was a “stampede” as tourists and locals sprinted away from the scene of the attack.
He said: “I was with my boyfriend just about to cross Las Ramblas and all of a sudden there was an immediate stampede and police shouting at people to run.
“I saw a young child knocked over and picked them up but everyone was just running.
“There was a stampede in the streets alongside Las Ramblas as everyone tried to run away. People were running into shops and taking refuge in cafes. There was a lot of screaming.”
Daniela Goicoechea, who was walking along La Rambla with three children aged one, two and five, told The Independent: “People started running but we didn’t know what was happening. There was a lot of people running. Then policemen began chasing people. We were lost, we ran with three babies and hid in a cafe nearby.”
Videos posted on social media shows dozens of people, seemingly injured, lying on the floor being cared for by emergency services.
Aamer Anwar was walking down Las Ramblas at the time, which he said was “jam-packed” with tourists.
He told Sky News: “All of a sudden, I just sort of heard a crashing noise and the whole street just started to run, screaming. I saw a woman right next to me screaming for her kids.
“Police were very, very quickly there, police officers with guns, batons, everywhere. Then the whole street started getting pushed back.”
A Foreign Office spokesman said: “We are in contact with the Spanish authorities and seeking more information following an incident in Barcelona.
“Anyone in the area should follow the advice of the emergency services.”
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan described the events as “a barbaric terrorist attack” and said London stood in solidarity with Barcelona.
He tweeted: “My thoughts are with the victims of this barbaric terrorist attack in the great city of Barcelona and with their brave emergency services.
“London stands with Barcelona against the evil of terrorism.”
Pictures of the van show a white vehicle with the logo of the rental company Telefurgo on its side.
While full details of the incident were not immediately clear, since July 2016 vehicles have been used to ram into crowds in a series of militant attacks across Europe, killing well over 100 people in Nice, Berlin, London and Stockholm.
There have been no previous terror attacks claimed by Isis in Spain, where almost 200 people were killed by al-Qaeda inspired terrorists in the Madrid bombings in 2004.
A Freelance Journalist, Entrepreneur and Philanthropist. Editor-in-Chief of www.233times.com. A contributory writer for Ghanaian Chronicle Newspaper. An alumnus of Adisadel College where he read General Arts. He holds first degree in Bachelor of Arts from the University of Ghana; Political Science (major) and History (minor). He has also pursued MSc Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Energy with Public Relations (PR) at the Robert Gordon University in the United Kingdom. His mentors are Rupert Murdoch, Warren Buffet, Sam Jonah, Kwaku Sakyi Addo and Piers Morganview all posts by: Nana Kwesi Coomson
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