A white van plowed into a packed summer crowd Thursday in Barcelona’s historic Las Ramblas district, killing some people and sending dozens fleeing. Barcelona police called it a terror attack and local media reported up to 13 dead.
Catalan police tweeted “there are mortal victims and injured from the crash” without specifying any numbers. Spanish media, including Cadena SER radio station and TV3, reported up to 13 dead, while other media had varying death tolls.
Police cordoned off the broad street that is so popular with tourists, ordering stores and nearby Metro and train stations to close. They asked people to stay away from the area so as not to get in the way of emergency services. A helicopter hovered over the scene.
Quoting unnamed police sources, the El Pais newspapers said the two perpetrators of the crash were holed up in a bar in Tallers Street. Armed police ran down the streets and through a market, checking in stores and cafes, presumably in search of them.
In photographs and videos, at least five people could be seen lying on the ground in the streets of the northern Spanish city Thursday afternoon, being helped by police and others. Other video recorded people screaming as they fled the van.
Las Ramblas, a street of stalls and shops that cuts through the center of Barcelona, is one of the city’s top tourist destinations. People walk down a wide, pedestrian path in the center of the street but cars can travel on either side.
Keith Fleming, an American who lives in Barcelona, was watching TV in his building just off Las Ramblas when he heard a noise and went out to his balcony.
“I saw women and children just running and they looked terrified,” he said.
He said there was a bang — possibly from someone rolling down a store shutter — and more people ran by. Then police arrived and pushed everyone a full block away. Even people leaning out of doors were being told to go back inside, he said.
Fleming said regular police had their guns drawn and riot police were at the end of his block, which was now deserted.
“It’s just kind of a tense situation,” Fleming said. “Clearly people were scared.”
Carol Augustin, a manager at La Palau Moja, an 18th-century place on Las Ramblas that houses government offices and a tourism information center, said the van passed right in front of the building.
“We saw everything. People started screaming and running into the office. It was such a chaotic situation. There were families with children. The police made us close the doors and wait inside,” she said.
Cars, trucks and vans have been the weapon of choice in multiple extremist attacks in Europe in the last year.
The most deadly was the driver of a tractor-trailer who targeted Bastille Day revelers in the southern French city of Nice in July 2016, killing 86 people. In December 2016, 12 people died after a driver used a hijacked trick to drive into a Christmas market in Berlin.
There have been multiple attacks this year in London, where a man in a rented SUV plowed into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge, killing four people before he ran onto the grounds of Parliament and stabbed an unarmed police officer to death in March.
Four other men drove onto the sidewalk of London Bridge, unleashing a rampage with knives that killed eight people in June. Another man also drove into pedestrians leaving a London mosque later in June. (AP)
What a bilingual city actually looks like (part 2)
Our previous post on linguistic landscapes was successful so we’re back with more examples of what bilingual cities look like! We live in Barcelona so these examples combine Catalan and Spanish.
It isn’t a secret that Spain is complicated when it comes to languages and politics, so linguistic policies tend to be extremely delicate issues. It’s hard to make popular decisions and there is never an option that will please everyone, but trying is always nice.
The following pictures were taken at a train station.
Here we read “Only maintenance service employees allowed” in Spanish and Catalan. Spanish comes first, so it is given priority as the leader. Catalan comes second, but the sentence is written in bold, so in that sense it is also prioritized. No one should get angry.
The same thing happens next, but English joins the game now. What’s curious here is how they spent money on the word “Ascensor” twice because even if the spelling is exactly the same in Spanish and Catalan, they still wanted to respect each language’s space to avoid creating a dispute (which they probably did anyway).
The signs in English are tiny and might not be very visible, but they’re in caps so there’s also the attempt to make the English speaker feel cared for.