Norway island survivors: screams, shots and death

Reuters News
Posted: Jul 23, 2011 11:53 AM
Norway island survivors: screams, shots and death

By Gwladys Fouche

SUNDVOLLEN, Norway (Reuters) - "I heard screams. I heard people begging for their lives and I heard shots. He just blew them away. I was certain I was going to die."

Erik Kursetgjerde, an 18-year-old Labour Party youth member, described the fear and panic on Utoeya island when a gunman staged a methodical massacre on Friday -- half an hour after organizers had told people at the youth camp about a bomb attack in Oslo.

"People ran everywhere. They panicked and climbed into trees. People got trampled," Kursetgjerde told Reuters outside a hotel in the town of Sundvollen, near the forested island.

The killer, dressed as a policeman, "would tell people to come over: 'It's OK, you're safe, we're coming to help you.' And then I saw about 20 people come toward him and he shot them at close range," he said.

Kursetgjerde said he ran and hid between cliffs, then swam out into the lake and nearly drowned. "Someone (in a boat) rescued me. They saved my life."

"This lasted for hours," Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere told a news conference, describing the killings on the island northwest of Oslo where about 600 young people had gathered.

A 32-year-old Norwegian was arrested after 85 people died in the island shootings, on top of the seven killed in the earlier bomb blast.

"I saw he had a handgun," Thorbjoern Vereive, 22, told Reuters. "Some people said he also had something that looked like a rifle."

"When I swam out into the water he shot all my friends. He shot them when they were running away. I hid in a cave and had to lie in the water. There were people hiding in the cave and he tried to lure people out by saying, 'It's safe, come out.'"

"He picked them out, one by one. He was mostly silent. It looked like it didn't bother him."

"He tried to shoot me and I saw the bullet pass right next to me. I thought I was going to die."

Another youth, Dana Barzingi, described the massacre to state broadcaster NRK. "It was a bloodbath. There was nowhere to flee, only the water, and when people tried to swim away he just shot them."

"He kept coming," said Barzingi. "He went around and around pretending to be a rescue worker and said people should come to get help. Then he shot them."

NRK showed blurred pictures taken from a helicopter of a man, apparently in police uniform, standing with his arm outstretched amid numerous victims, some prone on the rocky shore, others floating in the water.

(Additional reporting by Walter Gibbs, editing by Tim Pearce)