World joins Norway to mourn Oslo killing spree
Survivors tell of horror as gunman went on rampage across island
Published 24/07/2011 | 05:00
'There were 30 to 40 of us standing together when he started shooting. But when he was done with us there were only five or six left'
Anders Behring Breivik had walked into their camp on Utoya island after taking the short ferry across Tyrifjorden lake.
On the island, 650 young people were attending a summer camp where they bathed, sat around campfires and learnt about politics.
Members of the Norwegian Labour party's youth wing, they had heard reports of a bomb explosion in the capital Oslo a couple of hours earlier they found the presence of a police officer reassuring.
But as they came towards him, he pulled a gun out of a bag and opened fire.
As his victims fell to the ground, others ran away, screaming in terror. But he followed them, marching around the small wooded island of Utoya in southeast Norway, spraying them with bullets from his two guns and shouting: "You all must die."
Many of his victims were shot twice, according to eyewitnesses. One said the gunman was "laughing and cheering" during his killing spree, which lasted for more than an hour and left more than 80 people dead. Another said he "shot the cutest girl first".
The terrified campers, aged between 15 and 25, hid in buildings, under rocks and in trees. Some pretended to be dead while others dived into the sea and tried to swim to safety. The gunman went after them, shooting them in the water.
He continued to use his uniform to lure campers to their deaths. Thorborn Vereide, 22, said that even after he had started firing he was telling campers they could trust him.
"He kept shouting, 'It's safe to come out. You'll be saved... I'm a cop'," Mr Vereide said.
"There were 30 to 40 of us standing together when he started shooting. But when he was done with us there were only five or six left. We ran away and hid in a cave."
Nicoline Bjerge Schie, 21, thought somebody was setting off fireworks when she first heard the gunfire. But then she saw people "screaming and running for their lives with their heads down".
With 10 other young men and women Ms Schie ran to hide near the beach. As they cowered behind a rock, the bullets whistled over their heads.
"I could not see the gunman but I heard him screaming and laughing and he gave several cheers," she said.
She watched, horrified and helpless, as some of her friends were hit by the gunman's bullets, at least five of them toppling off the rock into the lake.
"Many of them had serious injuries and I think one was shot in the face," she said.
"But we had to stay where we were and remain totally still and we were unable to help them. The shooting seemed to go on forever," she said.
Hana Barzingi fled from the gunman and slipped into the lake to hide. For nearly two hours she was lying in the water, waiting for help and hoping that the gunman would not find her.
Over in the camp's main building, Erlend Fosseida Selre, 19, was watching TV coverage of the Oslo explosions when the shooting started. "At first thought it was a joke -- someone popping balloons or something like that. Then a friend of mine ran in and said there is shooting.
"Some people ran for the exit; at first we lay on the floor, then everybody ran for the kitchen."
Erlend and his girlfriend hid in the freezer room for two hours, frantically trying to call friends to see if they were still alive. As the cold started to bite they turned off the freezer.
"We could hear shots, and squeaking from the floor outside. We think it was the gunman walking around."
"We decided to stay until someone came to open the door, and prayed it would not be the gunman."
Fifteen-year-old Elise heard gunfire as she came out of an information meeting in a nearby building where campers had been told about the Oslo bomb.
"I saw a police officer and thought I was safe, but then he started shooting," she said. "I was just a few metres away from him.
"I saw many dead people. He first shot people on the island. Afterwards, he started shooting people in the water."
The petrified teenager hid behind the same rock that the killer was standing on. "I could hear his breathing from the top of the rock," she said.
She phoned her parents, whispering to avoid being heard by the gunman, and was told not to panic and to get rid of the brightly coloured jacket she was wearing to avoid drawing attention to herself.
Mirjam Einangshaug, 16, said: " I hid in a bedroom with my friend when I heard the shooting. We turned off our phones because we didn't want to give away our hiding place if somebody called us."
Volunteers, including many holidaymakers, took to their boats to help rescue the fleeing campers. Torill Hansen, who was camping nearby, said there was a strong smell of gunpowder as she climbed into her boat and headed out towards the heads bobbing in the water.
But she faced an agonising choice over who to rescue. "I could only take 10 people in the boat and even with that many it was nearly capsizing," she said. "Having to decide who to take was horrible."
Many of the youngsters she picked up were badly injured and all were in shock. "They were blue with cold and fear," she said. "They had been standing right next to people who had been shot."
Ms Hansen said the youngsters, after their ordeal with a bogus policeman, were terrified when they saw heavily armed police officers once they were brought to safety. "Some of them were screaming because they were so frightened," she said.
As officers continued searching the waters around the island and nearby islets for more bodies, hundreds of survivors were taken to the nearby Sundvollen hotel to recover with the help of friends and relatives who arrived from all over Norway.
But for many relatives the pain goes on. Many of the dead have not yet been identified and a Labour party official told them families it might be three days before all of the names were known. Some young people are feared to have drowned as they tried to escape.
Frederick Olson, 36, a salesman, said it was "very emotional" in the hotel as families arrived looking for their sons and daughters.
"There is terrible grief for some and happiness for others and still a lot of confusion for many about what has happened and whether their relatives are still alive."
Mr Olson was comforting Aden Hindenes, 20, his girlfriend's brother, who was on the beach with friends when the shooting started.
"The person standing next to him was shot in the face and another one was shot in the stomach," Mr Olsen said.
Mr Hindenes thought about swimming to safety but when he saw that the gunman was shooting people in the water he decided to hide in bushes where he stayed until police arrived.
He was distraught and shaken. "We spent all night talking about it," said Mr Olson.
"He was there last year on the island, it's a big thing for Labour party people.
"He told me he saw the shooter saying that he was in the police, that everything was alright and that they could come out. Then he heard shots.
"The shooter must have been cold and extremely calculating. There is nothing in Norway to create such hatred; everybody has a nice life here."
Torbjorn Lovaas had jumped in his car and driven for eight hours to reach the Sundvollen Hotel as soon as he heard about the shooting on the island, where his 18-year-old son Kjartan was attending the gathering.
"We drove all night and thank God Kjartan survived," he said. "He threw himself in the water with many others to get away. One guy swimming in the water next to him was shot and one of his mates is missing."
The gunman is believed to have used a silver car to drive from the bomb scene in Oslo 20 miles away. The first reports of gunfire on the island came at 6.25pm, about three hours after the explosion near the offices of the prime minister in Oslo.
A SWAT team that had been put on alert after the bombing in Oslo was dispatched to the island once the shooting began. A police official said they may have taken 30 minutes to reach the island.
Last night, it was unclear why the killing spree was allowed to continue for 90 minutes before the gunman surrendered to police and was arrested.
There were no reports of anyone trying to tackle the gunman.
Police had found bodies all over the tiny island and did not yet know how many were still missing, he added. Last night, the death toll in the island shootings had reached 91, including the missing, and there were fears it could rise.
On the mainland opposite, three large orange tents had been set up as a police headquarters and dozens of police cars were parked along a nearby road.
Zoran Tesic, 40, a resident who lives a few miles from the island said: "There are only a few cabins on it and it is empty all year except when the annual camp for the young socialists takes place. People here are just in shock about this. It will take days for what has happened to sink in."
The region, less than an hour's drive from Oslo, is one of pretty villages, forest-covered mountains, lakes and lush green countryside -- and flags at half-mast.
Yesterday, the king visited to comfort the bereaved and the survivors.
But it was the prime minister, Jens Stoltenberg, who spent holidays on the island as a young Labour party member, who summed up the grief: "Utoya is my childhood paradise that yesterday was transformed into hell."