‘Screams and a bit of a crash and then the crowd parted and this van going full pelt down the middle of the Ramblas’

Eyewitnesses describe the horrifying moments of the terror attack in Barcelona that has killed at least 13 people and left dozens injured.

'Screams and a bit of a crash and then the crowd parted and this van going full pelt down the middle of the Ramblas'
Police cordoned off the area and guided tourists to safety. Photo: AFP

Barcelona's most famous street was packed with tourists when a van drove into the crowds on a sunny Thursday afternoon, leaving scenes of carnage and panic.

“There were bodies on the ground with people crowding round them. People were crying,” Xavi Perez, who sells sports magazines just 100 metres away from the attack, told AFP.

The region's interior minister gave a grim toll from what police said was a terror attack: 13 dead and more than 50 injured.   

Among the foreigners caught up on Las Ramblas was Aamar Anwar, a renowned Scottish human rights lawyer in Barcelona for a conference and had been walking down the boulevard when the terror unfolded.

“All of a sudden I heard a crashing noise and the whole street just started to run screaming,” he told Sky News, describing a scene of thousands of people struck by chaos and panic.

“I saw a woman next to me screaming for her kids.  

“Literally within 30 seconds, police vans, ambulances, police officers with guns were piling out, and we were sectioned off and then being pushed rapidly back,” he said.

Another witness said he saw a man fleeing.    

“I saw a man run down the Ramblas, with police chasing him and he appeared to drop a black metal object. It looked like a pistol,” said the witness who only gave his first name, Sergio.  

Another man at the scene told Spanish television channel TVE that he saw the suspect.

“It was a person in their 20s, he was very young, brown hair, a slim face. I saw him when the van stopped. We were very close to everything.”

'Screams and then a crash'  

As people ran for their lives they were replaced by armed police officers who sealed off the scene.

“Van upon van of police officers” then arrived, Anwar said. “They have quite clearly unfortunately had to plan for something like this.”  


Another visitor, Susan McLean, who was 100 metres away, said it was terrifying.

“All of a sudden, scores of people ran towards us — hysterical, children hysterical. They first of all said someone had been shot.    

“It calmed down for a moment then all of a sudden a second wave of people came down the street. Our hotel was one street away so we got ourselves out,” she told Sky.

“We could see the police, we could see all the cars stopped.    

“The police were doing their job. We really had no idea what was going on other than we had to get ourselves out of there very quickly.”  

Tom Gueller, who lives on an adjoining road, fled the scene when he saw the van hurtling through the crowds.

“I heard screams and a bit of a crash and then I just saw the crowd parting and this van going full pelt down the middle of the Ramblas and I immediately knew that it was a terrorist attack or something like that,” he told BBC radio.  

“I ran away, I mean I live near, I had to run back about 50 metres or so and go up to my flat and obviously see what's happening on the road from my balcony.”

Asked about the van, he said: “It wasn't slowing down at all. It was just going straight through the middle of the crowds in the middle of the Ramblas.”

Steve Garrett was in a nearby market and sheltered in a bakery with several others.

“Coming from England it was reminding me a great deal of what happened in London, so we were very concerned about what might happen next.”    

Armed police then appeared.    

“They seemed to sweep through the market area. They seemed to be looking for someone. They were going very carefully, very cautiously, stall to stall,” he said.

By Daniel Bosque / AFP


Why has the expansion of Barcelona airport prompted mass protests?

Around 10,000 people demonstrated against the expansion of the El Prat airport in Barcelona on Sunday.

Why has the expansion of Barcelona airport prompted mass protests?
People march during a demonstration against the expansion of the Barcelona-El Prat airport. Photo: Pau BARRENA / AFP

Several ecological and agricultural organisations, have demanded that the expansion be stopped due to the fact nearby wetlands and farms would have to be destroyed.

The demonstration took place on Calle Tarragona in the Catalan capital between Plaça d’Espanya and Plaça dels Països Catalans.

The protests still took place, even though last week, Spain suspended the €1.7 billion airport expansion project, citing differences with the Catalan government, after president Pere Aragonès said he wanted to avoid destroying La Ricarda lagoon, a natural reserve next to the airport. 

Environmentalists decided not to call off the march, in case plans for the airport expansion still went ahead.

READ ALSO: Six things you need to know about Barcelona airport’s €1.7 billion planned expansion

Political representatives from ERC, En Comú Podem and the CUP also attended, as well as the leader of Más País, Íñigo Errejón; the Deputy Mayor for Ecology of the Barcelona City Council, Janet Sanz, and the Mayor of El Prat de Llobregat, Lluís Mijoler.

People from neighbourhoods across the city marched towards Calle Tarragona and could be seen holding placards that read Nature yes, airport no and shouting slogans such as “More courgettes and fewer planes” and “Fighting for the climate, health, and life”. 

One of the largest groups of people were those from El Prat de Llobregat, the municipality which is home to the airport, who were led by tractors. 

People march during a demonstration against the expansion of Barcelona-El Prat airport. Photo by Pau BARRENA / AFP

In addition to protesting against the expansion of the El Prat airport, people were also demonstrating against the Winter Olympic Games in the Pyrenees and extensions to airports in Mallorca and Madrid. 

A representative of Zeroport, Sara Mingorría said “We are here to defend not only La Ricarda, but the entire Delta”. 

The philosopher Marina Garcés also argued that the expansion of the airport would mean “more borders, more mass tourism, more control and more precarious jobs.” 

The leader of the commons in the Catalan parliament, Jéssica Albiach, who also attended the protest, asked the PSOE for “coherence”: “You cannot be passing a law against climate change and, at the same time, defend the interests of Aena [the airport operations company]”, she said. 

She also urged the leader of the Generalitat, Pere Aragonès, to “definitely say no. 

If the airport expansion in Barcelona goes ahead, environmentalists say that CO2 emissions would rise by a minimum of 33 percent. These levels would surpass the limits set by the Catalan government’s climate targets.