Barcelona attack witness saw people ‘flying into the air’

Updated 7:36 PM EDT, Thu August 17, 2017
A person is stretched out of a mall by medical staff members in a cordoned off area after a van ploughed into the crowd, injuring several persons on the Rambla in Barcelona on August 17, 2017.
Police in Barcelona said they were dealing with a "terrorist attack" after a vehicle ploughed into a crowd of pedestrians on the city's famous Las Ramblas boulevard on August 17, 2017. Police were clearing the area after the incident, which has left a number of people injured. / AFP PHOTO / Josep LAGO        (Photo credit should read JOSEP LAGO/AFP/Getty Images)
JOSEP LAGO/AFP/Getty Images
A person is stretched out of a mall by medical staff members in a cordoned off area after a van ploughed into the crowd, injuring several persons on the Rambla in Barcelona on August 17, 2017. Police in Barcelona said they were dealing with a "terrorist attack" after a vehicle ploughed into a crowd of pedestrians on the city's famous Las Ramblas boulevard on August 17, 2017. Police were clearing the area after the incident, which has left a number of people injured. / AFP PHOTO / Josep LAGO (Photo credit should read JOSEP LAGO/AFP/Getty Images)
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A policemen stand as he blocks the street to a cordoned off area after a van ploughed into the crowd, injuring several persons on the Rambla in Barcelona on August 17, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / PAU BARRENA (Photo credit should read PAU BARRENA/AFP/Getty Images)
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(CNN) —  

Witnesses of Barcelona’s van ramming attack on Thursday described victims “flying into the air” and a “tidal wave” of people running, as a van plowed into a crowd on one of the city’s busiest streets.

Spanish police are treating the incident that killed at least 13 people on the Las Ramblas avenue as a terror attack.

Ali Shirazinia said the street was, as usual, teeming with tourists, street merchants and performers on what was a beautiful summer’s day.

He was riding his bike down the street when he suddenly heard screams.

“I looked over to my left and I saw all of the people along the promenade kind of split into two – some going right, the rest coming really towards me, screaming and running as fast as they could,” he told CNN.

That’s when he saw the white van mowing down the crowd.

People fleeing the scene in Barcelona on Thursday after the attack.
Giannis Papanikos/AP
People fleeing the scene in Barcelona on Thursday after the attack.

“I saw people flying into the air and everybody was kind of running into the shops on either side of the Ramblas, and a lot of people were in shock.”

Tourist Susan McClean told CNN of the moment she saw a large crowd of people running towards her.

’Screaming in terror’

“All of a sudden there was this tidal wave of people running towards us, and they were hysterical,” she said.

“Children were screaming, there was a lot of distress.”

She ducked into a nearby shop and the shutters were pulled down while police sped towards the scene. She couldn’t understand what people were saying in Spanish, but she knew it was bad.

“You could see the fear and the distress in these people, and the fact that they were screaming in terror. Regardless of what might have happened we knew we had to get ourselves out of there,” she told CNN.

Hiding in a bathroom

Ella Bartlett had just sat down with some friends at a restaurant in the nearby Plaza Real for a meal. They were looking at a menu when there was a sudden commotion.

“Once we saw that everyone was running, we just started running too. We didn’t even know what we were running from,” she said

Some people hiding in a restaurant called Bartlett and her friends to join them, and they hid in a bathroom in the back with two other people, one of them a girl in tears.

“There were some people in the restaurant lobby looking out and all we could see from the windows was just people running around in the Plaza. It was really scary.”

Shirazinia, who lives in Barcelona, said that he and some friends had been worried an attack was “always around the corner.”

“I know from speaking to a lot of of my friends from Barcelona, whenever tragedy has struck in other cities, around the world, in Europe especially, everybody felt that the Ramblas would be next. I don’t think a lot of people are that surprised that it happened here,” he said.