International desk, Mar 15: Armed police in New Zealand swarmed central Christchurch on Friday (March 15) amid reports of a shooting at multiple mosques in the South Island city, and witnesses at a mosque told media of dozens of people being shot.At least six people are believed to have been killed and police are urging residents to stay indoors, the NZ Herald reported.
A dead body has been seen lying near Al Noor Mosque in central Christchurch and a second gunman has been seen near Linwood Masjid mosque, the newspaper said.
Shooting has also been reported at the Christchurch Mosque on Deans Ave, Stuff.co website said.
There are reports of a third active shooting unfolding outside Christchurch Hospital, the reports added.
The Guardian is reporting police as saying there is a bomb on Strickland Street in Christchurch.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern canceled her events for the rest of the day after the shooting.
Reports of the shooting happened as young protesters were gathering in Christchurch and cities around the world to demand action on climate change.
Canterbury Police said on Twitter: “We have a critical incident in Deans Ave Christchurch. Please avoid the area. We will give more in the near future.”
Stuff understands the emergency department at Christchurch Hospital has been cleared out.
Hospital staff is expecting about 40 to 50 injured people.
Muslim Association of Marlborough chairman Zayd Blissett said he found out about the shooting from a text sent by the Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand (FIANZ) at 2.04pm, saying “50 shot” during Friday prayers in Christchurch.
“I’m just heartbroken. In fact, I’m sitting here crying,” he said.
“This is New Zealand. This can’t happen here.”
A man in the mosque at the time, who would not give his name, was reported as saying there were “bodies all over me”.
He said the gunman came in with an automatic gun and emptied at least two magazines.
He and others broke a window in a door to escape from the mosque.
Prayers started at 1.30pm and the gunman came in about 10 minutes later when everyone was on their knees praying, he said.
The gunman let off dozens, if not hundreds of rounds, he said.
Armed police were also trying to clear Deans Ave and Hagley Park.
A large number of police were also reportedly at Christchurch Hospital.
About 20 armed police are also clearing buildings in Linwood, including Eastgate Mall, which will be closed for the rest of the day.
Amy Adams, a member of parliament from Christchurch, said: “Horrified to hear of Christchurch mosque shootings. There is never a justification for that sort of hatred.”