UK

Barcelona Terror Attack: Tourists Describe How They Barricaded Themselves In Cafe For Hours To Escape

'We just heard the screaming... we just ran'.

18/08/2017 16:44 BST
  • 14 people killed and over a hundred injured in Barcelona and Cambrils
  • Van driver could have been shot dead during separate Cambrils attack
  • Moussa Oukabir, 18, is suspected of being the driver. 4 have been arrested
  • British dual-nationality child, 7, is believed to be among the missing
  • Foreign Office says a ‘small number’ of Britons were injured in Barcelona
  • Victims from 34 different countries, including France, Germany and Australia

Three American tourists caught up in Thursday’s Barcelona van attack have described how they ran with a panicked crowd and barricaded themselves in a nearby cafe for hours.

Nick Ewald, Kat Cantu and Jeromy Morrow, all in their 20s, were arriving at the Spanish city’s central Plaza Catalunya when they heard screams and shouts.

Confronting the chaos, they were left with no choice but to join the terrified throng of tourists and flee as quickly as they could.

“We just heard the screaming and everyone running towards us and the panic and we just ran,” Ewald tells HuffPost UK at the now-reopened Las Ramblas on Friday.

HuffPost UK
L-R: Nick Ewald, Kat Cantu and Jeromy Morrow

“We ran with the crowd to get as far away as we could.”

They soon found themselves in relative safety in a cafe - hurriedly barricading the door against what were then unknown numbers of potential attackers.

Misinformation and rumour added to their fear.

“We heard there was an armed hostage situation, so we found a cafe and basically barricaded the doors of the cafe and tried to do everything we could to be ready,” Ewald adds.

“We talked about what we would do if someone came to the door.”

Police announced today that a woman ploughed down by a car in Cambrils in a separate attack had also died, bringing the death toll of Spain’s 24 hours of terror to 14. They believe one of the five terrorists killed in Cambrils could have been the driver of the van in Barcelona. 

John Johnston/HuffPost UK
Mourners gather on Las Ramblas where the van stopped yesterday

Separately, UK authorities are “urgently looking into reports” of a British dual-nationality child believed to be missing in Spain following the terror attacks, in which the Foreign Office confirmed a “small number” of Britons were injured.

But standing on Las Ramblas less than 24 hours after Thursday’s van attack which killed 13 and left over 100 injured, the tourists said it was a surreal experience after a night trying to make sense of what happened.

“When we came back this morning, seeing the way that people had united, the chanting ‘we are not afraid’ has probably been the most touching part of the whole situation,” Cantu says.

“All I felt was panic, anxiety yesterday. Hard to sleep last night after all that. Being back today is surreal. If you would have told me I’d be here now I wouldn’t have believed you.”

Sergio Perez / Reuters
People hold banners as they observe a minute of silence in Placa de Catalunya in Barcelona

It’s the enduring spirit of Barcelona, in clear abundance on Friday, which helped inspire the Tennessee and Ohio natives.

“The people are resilient. They refused to be ruled by fear,” Morrow says. “They will live their lives. They have a rich culture and they aren’t afraid to assert that.”

For now they say they’re lucky to be alive, and keen, albeit hesitantly, to enjoy the next stop on their itinerary is the Spanish capital Madrid. 

“Who knows what the rest of this trip will be like. We’re lucky to have a trip,” Ewald says.

Susan McLean, an Australian national who is currently travelling with her husband in Barcelona, said she was around 100 metres away from Las Ramblas when the attack occurred.

“We had no idea what was happening because we don’t speak Spanish. People were shouting ‘gun gun, shoot, shoot’,” she said.

“The first we knew something was wrong was when we saw a tidal wave of people coming around the corner screaming and crying and hysterical.

“We didn’t know what was going on but my immediate thought was a terrorist attack because there’s no other reason for people to be so distressed and running away en masse.”

“We got caught up in the group and everyone was diving into the shops so we went into the nearest shop. My husband helped the shop owner pull down the shutters and we took refuge in there for about half an hour.”

John Johnston/HuffPost UK
One of several tribute sites on Las Ramblas on Friday

Earlier there was a sombre minute-long silence at Barcelona’s Las Ramblas on Friday which gave way to spontaneous applause, as crowds of tourists and locals joined Spanish leaders in a ceremony to commemorate victims.

Holding white or red roses aloft, thousands in the crowd chanted and shouted “Viva! Espana” and “No tinc por” (“I’m not afraid”).

Queues of people lined roads to get into the square itself, with police officers conducting careful searches of bags and persons.

“If we just shut down and close then they win,” Diana Daniels, an American living in Barcelona, told HuffPost.

“Of course we have to get on because if we don’t, they win,” she said of the perpetrators of Thursday’s attacks. 

Daniels, who witnessed crowds running and screaming through the window of her office just metres from Las Ramblas, said while Thursday’s events were terrifying, they won’t alter the spirit of many here.

“We will get on, we have to,” she added.