Sunday 25 August 2019

Witnesses describe horror after truck ploughs into Christmas market in Berlin

Up to 50 injured according to police

A truck is seen near the Christmas market in Berlin, Germany December 19, 2016. REUTERS/Pawel Kopczynski
A truck is seen near the Christmas market in Berlin, Germany December 19, 2016. REUTERS/Pawel Kopczynski
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

A truck has run into crowded Christmas market in Berlin, causing at least nine deaths and injuring up to 50 others.

Police have said they have arrested the suspected driver of the truck, a spokesman said on N24 television.

The co-driver of truck died during the crash police have said. The passenger has been identified as Polish, while the nationality of the driver is not yet clear.

 Some media reports suggested the truck may have been hijacked.

German media, citing police at the scene, said first indications pointed to an attack on the market, situated at the foot of the ruined Kaiser Wilhelm memorial church, which was kept as a bombed-out ruin after World War Two.

However, the German state interior minister has said the background is still unclear and it "could be an accident or an attack".

The truck careered into the Berlin market at what would have been one of the most crowded times for the Christmas market, when adults and children would be gathering in the traditional cluster of wooden huts that sell food and Christmas goods.

Berlin police said nine people were killed.

Dubliner Conor Murphy (23) said his office is in the neighbouring district to the crash and he walked to his train in the minutes after the incident, which, he said, was something that gave him "shivers".

"It happened very close to where I work, I work in a call centre, around ten minutes away and I saw it [news reports] just before work finished," he told Independent.ie

"I work on a really long street that leads down to where it happened, usually there would be lots of hustle and bustle but tonight there wasn't a single car.

"I walked 2km to the train station and the mood was sombre, even on the train and in the train station, I've never seen so many people on the phone at the same time.

"It was really quiet, people were definitely a bit scared."

"My friend got caught up in the shooting in Munich and I was saying to her that I didn't know how to describe [how I felt about it]...it was like when you get the shivers but for the whole walk. I was thinking 'what's going to happen, is something more going to happen?'"

"Everyone seemed calm but you just didn't know what could happen or what could break out. I was glad to get in the door at home," he added.

Ambulances were rushing past him to the scene as he made his way home.

Mr Murphy, who has been living in the German city since May and works in a call centre said he will monitor developments but has no plans to return home on foot of the latest incident.

"I don't want to leave here, I'm happy here and I'm settled," he said.

Meanwhile, Nathan Young (23) from Derry is currently on holiday in Berlin with his girlfriend Claire.

Police stand near the Christmas market in Berlin, Germany December 19, 2016. REUTERS/Pawel Kopczynski
Police stand near the Christmas market in Berlin, Germany December 19, 2016. REUTERS/Pawel Kopczynski
Police work near the site of an accident at a Christmas market on Breitscheidplatz square near the fashionable Kurfuerstendamm avenue in the west of Berlin, Germany, December 19, 2016. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch
A truck is seen near the Christmas market in Berlin, Germany December 19, 2016. REUTERS/Pawel Kopczynski
Police secures the area at the site of an accident at a Christmas market on Breitscheidplatz square near the fashionable Kurfuerstendamm avenue in the west of Berlin, Germany, December 19, 2016. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch
A truck is seen near the Christmas market in Berlin, Germany December 19, 2016. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch
Paramedics work at the site of an accident at a Christmas market on Breitscheidplatz square near the fashionable Kurfuerstendamm avenue in the west of Berlin, Germany, December 19, 2016. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch
Paramedics work at the site of an accident at a Christmas market on Breitscheidplatz square near the fashionable Kurfuerstendamm avenue in the west of Berlin, Germany, December 19, 2016. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch
A truck is seen near the Christmas market in Berlin, Germany December 19, 2016. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch
Police and emergency workers are at the site of an accident at a Christmas market on Breitscheidplatz square near the fashionable Kurfuerstendamm avenue in the west of Berlin, Germany, December 19, 2016. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch
Police work at the site of an accident at a Christmas market on Breitscheidplatz square near the fashionable Kurfuerstendamm REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

The couple had visited the market earlier in the day and were enjoying a drink in Irish Pub in the Europa-Center when the truck collided with the market.

“I think people are in shock,” he said. “We were in the bar and didn’t hear anything. When we went outside the street was cordoned off with fire brigades, police and ambulance everywhere.

“We were in the market earlier in the day. It’s shocking to think that has just happened when we were just there. People don’t really know what’s going on.”

The Whitehouse has condemned the apparent attack:

"We have been in touch with German officials, and we stand ready to provide assistance as they recover from and investigate this horrific incident," National Security Council spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the French interior ministry has said security must be increased at Christmas markets immediately.

Neri Trott (60)  and her husband David (59) from Glasgow in Scotland arrived in the Hotel California in Berlin a short distance from the Christmas market at 6.30pm German time.

They had just sat down and ordered at a restaurant in the Christmas Market when they heard sirens.

She said: “We were just ordering some food and suddenly the emergency services were everywhere. They came up to us and spoke in German and a couple beside us said they were telling everyone to leave the market immediately, and that the restaurant won’t be serving food or alcohol.”

“Apparently they said there had been an accident.”

“The market was all closing down when we came out. We were being herded in different directions; we didn’t know were to go no one was speaking English, we just followed were other people were going. We left through the front entrance of the market.

“I don’t think people knew what was happening. We didn’t understand the language and people were telling us to go different ways.”

Richard Clarkson (20) from Brighton, England was at a bar called Irish Bar with his friends on the street near were the incident happened.

One of his friends heard a bang. He said: “I just walked out and I saw the truck, the windscreen was broken, I didn’t see any bodies they were very quick to cover them up I think.”

“The word terrorist is being thrown around a lot at the moment and people seem scared.”

Police cars and ambulances converged quickly on the scene as a huge security operation unfolded.

"I heard a big noise and then I moved on the Christmas market and saw much chaos...many injured people," Jan Hollitzer, deputy editor in chief of Berliner Morgenpost, told CNN. "It was really traumatic."

Emma Rushton, a tourist visiting Berlin, told Sky News the truck seemed to be traveling at about 40 mph (65 Kmh).

"We've never been to Berlin before. We decided to go down to the Christmas market. 

"We saw the Christmas lights to our left being pulled down. 

"People were running in the dark."

Emma grew emotional as she said; "It was very difficult to see. 

"We were very lucky in that we went into one of the booths to go and sit. Had we been downstairs, we probably would have been caught up in it."

Eileen Thornhill from Cork has been living in Berlin for 26 years. She is working in The Irish Times Pub, approximately 4.5km from the incident, and became aware of the attack when friends and family suddenly started calling the bar.

“We all started getting phone calls asking if we were all right and then we turned on the TV and saw what was happening,” she told the Irish Independent.

“We are all shocked and in a state of disbelief. I don’t know what to say. But German people are very resilient and good at coping.

“It’s a huge shock."

Eileen drew comparisons with the Nice attack that occurred on Bastille Day, claiming the lives of 86.

“The market is always filled with tourists and the fact that it happened near a holiday makes it more tragic. I suppose that’s why they choose holidays to make the biggest impact possible," she added.

Julian Reichelt, editor in chief of Bild Berlin, said that there was currently a massive security operation under way.

"The scene certainly looks like a reminder of what we have seen in Nice," Reichelt said.

The incident evoked memories of an attack in France in July when Tunisian-born man drove a 19-tonne truck along the beach front, mowing down people who had gathered to watch the fireworks on Bastille Day, killing 86 people. That attack was claimed by Islamic State

Video footage emerging from the scene shows market stalls knocked over and people lying on the ground.

It is still unclear as to whether the incident was an accident or if it was deliberate.

Video has emerged online from the scene of the incident.

The market is located at Breitscheidplatz, which is close to the Kaiser Wilhelm memorial church on the Kurfuerstendamm on the west of the city.

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