Sirens blaring, blood on the roads, weeping relatives: nightmare scenes played out on the streets of Paris on Friday night as more than 120 people were killed in simultaneous attacks.
The assailants’ weapons were those of war: automatic rifles and suicide belts of explosives. The killing was indiscriminate, spread across a swath of the city, in at least six different sites.
Pierre Montfort lives close to a Cambodian restaurant on Rue Bichat, where one of seven attacks took place in a night of bloodshed not seen in decades.
“We heard the sound of guns, 30-second bursts. It was endless. We thought it was fireworks,” he said.
Video: Eyewitness recounts horror
Another witness described the scene: “For a moment, we could only see the flames from the gun. We were scared, how did we know he wasn’t going to shoot the windows?”
Florence said she arrived by scooter a minute or so after.
“It was surreal, everyone was on the ground. No one was moving inside the Petit Cambodge restaurant and everyone was on the ground in bar Carillon,” she said.
“It was very calm -- people didn’t understand what was going on. A young girl was being carried in the arms of a young man. She seemed to be dead.”
On Rue Charonne, a little further east, fire engines drive past, their sirens wailing.
A man said he heard shots ring out, in sharp bursts, for two or three minutes.
“I saw several bloody bodies on the ground. I don’t know if they were dead,” he said.
“There was blood everywhere,” said another witness.
Outside the Saint-Louis Hospital in the north of the capital a police cordon had been set up.
Standing nearby, a tearful man said his sister had been killed. At his side, his mother burst into tears and collapsed into his arms.
“They won’t let us pass,” he said, pointing at the intersection 50 metres (yards) away.
At Bataclan, it was a ‘catastrophe’
Further east, near the Bataclan concert hall and not far from the scene of another deadly attack in January on the offices of satirical French magazine Charlie Hebdo, the area was on lock down.
Police say around 100 people were killed at the music venue, with reports saying armed attackers shot dead people attending a rock concert one by one before police stormed the building.
“My wife was in Bataclan, it’s a catastrophe,” said one man as he tried to run into the site but was blocked by the police cordon.
“All I can tell you is that it’s worse than Charlie Hebdo,” said a security officer.
One witness told France Info radio he heard them yell “Allahu Akbar” - God is great in Arabic - as they started their killing spree and took hostages at the concert hall.
A French radio reporter who was inside the Bataclan theatre that came under attack Friday gave a harrowing account of the “10 horrific minutes” when black-clothed gunmen wielding AK-47s entered and fired calmly and randomly at hundreds of screaming concertgoers.
“It was a bloodbath,” Julien Pierce, a reporter for France’s Europe 1 radio station, told CNN.
“People yelled, screamed and everybody lying on the floor, and it lasted for 10 minutes, 10 minutes, 10 horrific minutes where everybody was on the floor covering their head(s).”
“We heard so many gunshots and the terrorists were very calm, very determined and they reloaded three or four times their weapons and they didn’t shout anything. They didn’t say anything.”
Pierce recounted seeing 20 to 25 bodies on the floor and others very badly injured.
Pierce said he was lucky to be near the front of the stage as the gunmen, wearing black clothes and wielding AK-47s, opened fire.
“People started to try to escape to walk on people on the floor and try to find the exits, and I found an exit when the terrorists reloaded their guns in the meantime, and I climbed on the stage and we found an exit.”
The journalist said he took a teenage girl who was bleeding heavily and carried her to a taxi where he told the driver to take her to hospital.
About a mile (1.5 kilometers) from there, attackers sprayed gunfire at the Belle Equipe bar, busy as ever on a Friday night with patrons unwinding from their week. One witness, also speaking to French radio, said the dead and wounded dropped “like flies” and that “there was blood everywhere. You feel very alone in moments like that.”
(With AP and AFP inputs)