Singaporeans recount horror of ISIS attacks in Paris
ISIS attacks in Paris have left at least 128 dead, more than 350 injured. Two S'poreans there recount the night's events to ELIZABETH LAW (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Since she moved to Paris last December, Singaporean Tricia Teo, 27, has twice found herself caught up in the madness that follows a terror attack.
The student was there in January when gunmen opened fire in the offices of the Charlie Hebdo magazine, plunging France into three days of terror as the gunmen went on a rampage. The magazine had published images that offended Muslims.
On Friday, it happened again at a place she had been to and a hangout for many.
Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorists opened fire on Parisians gathered for a night out.
At least 128 people were killed in a series of attacks in six locations across the city, including the Bataclan. The popular concert venue was filled with some 1,500 revellers who had gathered for a concert.
The Stade de France, the country's national stadium where France had been playing an exhibition football match against Germany, also came under attack.
On Friday night, Ms Teo had to pack for a trip and stayed in her apartment in the 14th district.
Most of the attacks happened in the 10th and 11th districts, which are about a 20-minute train ride away.
A friend sent a text message to Ms Teo about the attacks close to midnight - about three hours after the initial attack - and she spent the next four hours on her computer reading up on the tragedy.
The incessant blaring of sirens and sense of dread kept many awake that night.
"I felt sick to the stomach and my hands couldn't stop shaking because I couldn't imagine how anyone could be so cruel," said Ms Teo, her voice still shaking some 10 hours after the tragedy unfolded.
"This has been my home for almost a year. I feel angry and disgusted."
France had announced a state of emergency and Paris was thrown into confusion as reports emerged that there were more terrorists on the run.
Singaporean Sarah Khiu thought it was a random shooting when she saw a large number of armed police officers as she got off the Metro on Friday night.
Walking back to Hotel Saint Sebestian, where she was spending her last night in France, she realised what had happened only when she switched on the television in her hotel room.
The executive was greeted with shocking images of the unfolding tragedy.
Ms Khiu's hotel was only a three-minute walk from the Bataclan, where three gunmen entered at about 9.30pm local time and started shooting at concertgoers.
"Through the night, I could hear the sound of siren going up and down the street," she said, adding that the hotel kept guests indoors and demanded proof of stay from those coming in.
Ms Khiu left Paris early yesterday morning to return home as planned.
"Such an attack could have happened to anyone in any country," she said.
"It was just a regular Friday night, people were out watching a game, at a concert, having dinner with friends and suddenly life is changed forever."
Ms Teo said it is hard to imagine something like this happening in Singapore where racial harmony is stressed upon.
"There is more tolerance in Singapore but here in France, there is a lot of fear, ignorance and suspicion of the Muslim community," she added.
Now she is worried that some groups will be targeted in retaliatory attacks.
"On one hand, they say that everyone is French, regardless of creed and race," she said.
"But on the other hand, there is a lot of stigma which is dangerous because it pits people against one other."
IN PARIS: Ms Tricia Teo.