Death toll rises to 50 as New Zealand mourns victims

18 March, 2019 12:00 AM printer

CHRISTCHURCH: New Zealanders flocked to memorial sites to lay flowers and mourn the victims of the twin mosque massacres Sunday, as testimony emerged of epic heroism and harrowing suffering in the gun attack that has claimed 50 lives, reports AFP.

Police Commissioner Mike Bush said officers had finally been able to share a list of victims with families, something delayed by the need for careful police work and the sheer scale of the tragedy.

For almost three days forensics teams, many flown in from across New Zealand, have been working through multiple crime scenes—at the Al Noor and Linwood mosques as well as a house in Dunedin, the southeastern city where the suspected gunman, Brenton Tarrant, lived.

Bodies of those gunned down by the white supremacist had remained inside the mosque awaiting autopsies and identification by increasingly distraught family members desperate to begin Muslim burial rites. 

Already, excavators have begun work in a city graveyard to remove the vast amount of earth needed to bury so many dead.

Once identification is complete the names will be made public, Bush said. But already, the stories of victims from across the Muslim world came into focus.

New Zealand authorities said 34 people remain in hospital, being treated for injuries that Doctor Greg Robertson described ranging from severe, complex gunshot wounds to “relatively superficial soft tissue injuries”.

Among those fighting for their lives is four-year-old Alin Alsati. The pre-schooler was praying alongside her father Waseeim at the Al Noor mosque when she was shot at least three times.

She has been airlifted to Starship children’s hospital in Auckland, the country’s top paediatric centre.

Her father, who was also shot, recently emigrated to New Zealand from Jordan and had just set up a barbershop—Wass Barber—in the suburb of Richmond.

“Please pray for me and my daughter,” he pleaded in a Facebook video message from his hospital bed before receiving surgery to get shrapnel and bone out of his hip socket.