16 Nov 2015

Paris attacks: ex-Kiwi resident shot in neck

11:17 am on 16 November 2015

A woman who used to live in New Zealand was shot as she was about to get takeaways from one of the Paris restaurants targeted by terrorists.

Attackers killed 129 people in a wave of shootings and suicide bombings in the French capital on Friday night.

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A bullet grazed the neck of Natacha Panot as she walked to the Le Petit Cambodge restaurant when gunmen opened fire, killing at least 12 people.

Her ex-husband Mark Harfield, a New Zealander living in Paris, said she was just seconds away from entering the restaurant, when the attack began, which she initially thought was fireworks.

"Then she said she got hit in the neck by something, and then she said she saw people dropping and she looked across and she saw a woman stopped over a man, screaming his name, and he wasn't getting up. At that point, she just froze."

Mr Harfield said doctors told Ms Panot she was lucky to be alive.

Other New Zealanders in Paris say they are in shock and disbelief after attacks in their community.

Claris Harvey and her fiancé Nathan Price live on the Rue de la Fontaine au Roi, down the street from the Castra Nostra restaurant where one of the shootings took place.

Mr Price said he had gone for a walk after dinner when he heard what sounded like firecrackers.

"I walked about 10 metres down the street and then three or four girls were coming at me and they were very upset and they were saying 'there's dead people on the ground, don't go that way, it's very stressful, go back, go back.'"

As he retreated, he realised something terrible was happening.

"I go to go up to my doorway and suddenly there's all this yelling and stuff down the end of the street and I hear the crackle of gunfire... I must have been hearing some stuff from there, but the yelling was certainly coming from the end of the street and suddenly I was quite scared and so I ran back down the street and it seemed to be okay, so I sort of managed to tiptoe back up to my door - like tiptoeing would make a difference."

He said the proximity of the attack was frightening.

"At the end of our street is the Casa Nostra - five people were killed there. I was basically walking up to that 150 metres away. We're kinda at the epicentre, the Petit Cambodge is 400 metres the other way, the Battaclan is two blocks away.

"In the courtyard of our apartment building a few girls had hidden in the trash room and were smoking and drinking wine and talking in hushed tones, so there was this feeling we were hidden away, it had a wartime quality. I stopped old people from going out and they thanked me."

Nathan Price and Claris Harvey

Nathan Price and Claris Harvey Photo: Supplied

His partner Claris Harvey said it was traumatic.

"I heard a woman screaming, yelling 'no, no!' and I could only assume that she'd heard something terrible about someone or had learnt something and it did make me cry, I felt quite upset hearing that."

Ms Harvey said she walked to the shops each day - a hub for the community - and had been there just two hours before the shooting began.

Venturing out the next day, she discovered her predictable world had turned upside down. Ms Harvey said she did not know who was alive and who had been killed or hurt.

"There's the guy reading his newspaper there every day and having his coffee, and the lovely flower shop man, those are the people I've been thinking of there's bullet holes through all their windows, the ones that have metal rollers are pulled down.

"When I saw the bullet holes through the laundromat I just burst into tears because I spend so much time in that laundromat it shocked me. There's a woman who sits outside her shop and I say hello... I'm thinking about her."

Ms Harvey said those who had survived put notes on their shopfronts.

"They've put written notes saying 'We cry with the people of the street and of Paris in solidarity. We're closed today' and there's no sign of when they'll be open again," she said.

Ms Harvey said even at the supermarket everyone's bags were being checked.

"It's the first time I've been in that sort of situation where you're getting security checks to go in and buy some bread and there's just an air of everyone's quite shaky and people standing on street corners talking to each other and pointing and trying to make sense of it.

"I'm keeping away from any crowded area - just going to the supermarket I felt on edge."

More fear than after Charlie Hebdo attacks

Ms Harvey said everyone was feeling fearful.

"Everyone I've been talking to is just holed up at home in a state of shock. We don't know as well if anything else is going to happen: so it's that kind of fear: should we go out? it's different to Charlie Hebdo, it's weird to walk around and feel that you're not actually safe.

Lydia Laulala and her partner

Lydia Laulala and her partner Photo: Supplied / Facebook

"It's so different. That time they were really specific, they knew the names of the people they wanted to kill and the other attack was on a Jewish supermarket [but] this was just random and everyone's just been walking around today with a mixture of terror and fear... everyone just woke to warnings to stay inside."

Lydia Laulala is in Paris with her husband who plays for a French rugby team. She said Parisians were frightened.

"It's just horrific really, just the kind of sense of fear and everyone I've been talking to is just holed up at home in a state of shock, we don't know as well if anything else is going to happen: so it's that kind of fear: should we go out?

"It's different to Charlie Hebdo... it's weird to walk around and feel that you're not actually safe."

New Zealander Jamie Standen said the shootings in the 11th arrondisement happened near where he works and he had walked home just an hour beforehand.

He said there were state police with machine guns everywhere, but their presence was only artificially reassuring.

"There's not a lot to be reassured by at the moment. One of the things that people like me are trying to come to terms with at the moment - and it'll take a lot of time - is that after the events in January with the Charlie Hebdo attack I'm quite surprised that it's still possible for something like this to happen on such a large scale.

Jamie Standen

Jamie Standen Photo: Supplied / Facebook

Mr Standen said he believed that instead of the attackers choosing iconic symbols, they had deliberately targeted places that induced a feeling of terror in people due to their random nature.

"Instead of being symbols like the Eiffel Tower it could be any old bar or restaurant.

"I have kinda a bad feeling that it's more the beginning of something than the end of something... it's different to Charlie Hebdo."

He said he and other New Zealanders were very appreciative of amount of support from people in New Zealand and it had not gone unnoticed.

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