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VIDEO: Blind panic hits the streets of Paris

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VIDEO: Blind panic hits the streets of Paris
Photo: Joel Saget/AFP
22:25 CET+01:00
Proof of how tense Paris is post terror attacks came on Sunday night when a false alarm sparked scenes of blind panic in the streets. The Local's Oliver Gee and other readers witnessed the chaos up close.
It felt like it had all started again.
 
On Sunday night, two nights after terrorists killed at least 129 people in Paris, there were scenes of chaos and panic in the streets once more. 
 
With the now iconic Place de la Republique packed with people paying their respects at a make shift shrine, it appeared that Paris was under attack from terrorists once again.  
 
What actually happened was reportedly nothing more than a blown light bulb near Place de la République or fire crackers, but the understandably panicked reaction of the throngs showed how the capital's nerves are frayed.
 
I was cycling down a central street, a few hundred metres from the Bataclan concert hall where 89 people were killed, when I saw three policemen draw their weapons. 
 
At that point, I noticed everyone was locked in restaurants with the lights turned off. The police had their shoulders up against walls and cars, guns pointing down the street. Helicopters were circling overhead. Those who were not inside were running and crying. 
 
It appears the hundreds of people who were gathered at the Place de la République simply stampeded in every direction. But no one knew why, at the time.
 
Parisians were yelling from their apartment windows, asking "What's happening?" but no one could give an answer. 
 
 
"I was scared for my life"
 
The police eventually put away their weapons and moved on, but the confusion remained.
 
"I wasn't scared on Friday night, because it happened so quickly," a young woman told me, in tears.
 
"But tonight it really hit me. I was scared for my life."
 
One man, 30-year-old Tareq Aldakheekallah, was also swept up in the rush. 
 
"I walked out of the République station and suddenly people were screaming and running at me," he told The Local.
 
He said residents were ushering the crowds of people into their courtyards for safety, but he had kept running, heading for a nearby pub where his friends were expecting him. 
 
 
"I was absolutely terrified, I thought there were people with Kalashnikovs behind me. I was waiting for the sound of it. I swear to God, I was waiting for some guy to start shooting."
 
"Today, I felt like I was running for my life."
 
When Aldakheekallah reached the pub, he found the scene was just as chaotic, with people crammed inside looking for shelter.
 
One woman, Elena Roddom, was in the same Cork and Cavan pub at the time and was also caught up in the scenes of panic.
 
"We were pushed inside until some of us were squeezed into the toilets at the back like sardines," she told The Local. 
 
"I started thinking that if terrorists came in and started shooting they would have had a field day, they would have slaughtered us."
 

Security officials told AFP that some people had even jumped into the Canal St Martin in the confusion.

Another witness said he saw a young family lift their newborn baby in the air to prevent it from the crush, while a bartender said he saw a child trampled. 

"I truly thought I was going to die," another witness said.
 
Outside, there were "panic stricken people running in every direction," Roddom added. 
 
Eventually, the pub opened its doors again and she made it home, after being locked with others in a supermarket by panicked police on the way. 
 
"What's really sad is that it was a beautiful day, there was a feeling of community in the air. And it was all shattered in seconds," she said.
 
"I have to take the Metro at rush hour tomorrow, I can't deny that it spooks me."
 
She is not the only person in Paris spooked by tonight. Many are reluctant to head out anywhere where there are large groups of people, fearing a similar attack.
 
The mayor of the area, Christophe Girard, who was at Note-Dame cathedral attending a mass in memory of the 129 people who died in the attacks, said he received a text message saying there was "gunfire near the town hall".
 
He left the cathedral to "reassure and calm local residents", he told AFP.
 
The French government has declared a state of emergency, which seems set to last for months. 
 
After the Charlie Hebdo attacks, 1.5 million people marched in solidarity through the streets of Paris.
 
Given the fear people are feeling right now in the French capital, it's hard to imagine that a similar show of strength will happen anytime soon.
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