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Canadians in Spain told to avoid Barcelona tourist area, scene of terror attack

People flee from the scene after a white van jumped the sidewalk in the historic Las Ramblas district of Barcelona, Spain, crashing into a summer crowd of residents and tourists Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017. According to witnesses the white van swerved from side to side as it plowed into tourists and residents.
Image Credit: AP Photo/Giannis Papanikos
August 17, 2017 - 12:04 PM

OTTAWA - Canadians in Spain are being urged to avoid the Las Ramblas area in Barcelona, where a van has plowed through a crowd in the popular tourist area near the city centre.

Global Affairs Canada is also urging Canadians in Spain to let their "loved ones know you are safe."

"Canada condemns today’s terror attack in Barcelona – our hearts, sympathies & support are with the victims and their families,' tweeted Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Catalonia's interior minister Joaquim Forn has confirmed 13 people were killed and at least 50 injured when a rented white van drove at high speeds into the crowds on the street.

Global Affairs says Canadians in the Spanish city should monitor local media and follow the directions of local authorities.

There is no word yet on whether any Canadians are among the dead or injured.

The attack occurred just over a kilometre from Canada's consulate in Barcelona.

Global Affairs officials said any Canadians in Barcelona with questions should direct them to consular staff or to the Emergency Watch and Response Centre in Ottawa.

Charles Mordret, a Quebecer who spends a lot of time in Barcelona, was not far from the area when he heard something had happened and started going towards it.

"People were coming in the opposite direction and I ended up going into a cafe," Mordret told La Press Canadienne.

"I am really, really near where the killer or killers might be holed up."

Initial reports suggested one of the suspects may have been hiding in a bar just off the popular tourist strip but police recently dismissed those reports.

Police said one suspect has been arrested.

Mordret said there were a lot of people on the street when it happened but not anymore.

"There are a lot of police officers. Every street is blocked off and at each corner there's a police cruiser. Helicopters are flying over the area. The streets are empty."

Las Ramblas is a tree-lined pedestrian mall lined with streetside cafes and souvenir kiosks. There are two narrow service roads running along either side of the pedestrian mall.

"Las Ramblas is bit like Sainte-Catherine Street in Montreal," said Mordret. "It's the main street, where the tourists are. Whoever did this wanted to cause a lot of damage."

Politicians around the world were expressing sadness at the event, including U.S. President Donald Trump.

Canadian Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer tweeted it was a "terrible scene in Barcelona. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims. We stand together condemning these horrific acts of terrorism."

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair also said it was "terrible news. We stand with Spain and all those impacted by this terror attack."

-follow @mrabson on Twitter

News from © The Canadian Press, 2017
The Canadian Press

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