Before the shooting starting, the Al Noor mosque in the New Zealand city of Christchurch was “peaceful, calm and quiet”.
“As it is when the sermon starts, you could hear a pin drop,” a man identified as Ramzan told reporters on Friday.
Then about 1.40pm during afternoon prayers, gunfire broke out.
“It started in the main room … I was in the side room, so I didn’t see who was shooting but I saw that some people were running out to my room where I was in, I saw some people had blood on their body and some people were limping,” Ramzan told reporters.
“It was at the moment I realised things were really serious.”
Forty people have been confirmed dead after shootings at two mosques Christchurch on Friday. Three suspects – including at least one Australian – are in custody and multiple explosive devices have been found attached to cars in the city.
At least one of the shootings appears to be have been streamed live on Facebook, and a video purporting to show the shooting began circulating on social media immediately after the attack. It shows what appears to be the shooter driving towards the mosque before beginning his rampage.
The 16-minute video shows the man driving towards the mosque with several high-powered rifles scrawled with messages beside him on the passenger seat of his silver Subaru.
“Remember lads, subscribe to Pewdiepie,” he can be heard saying, a reference to the Swedish YouTube celebrity and video gamer.
As he approaches the entrance of the mosque, he indiscriminately begins firing on people inside. After several minutes, he leaves, randomly shooting at people on the street through the windscreen of his car.
Police have urged people not to share the “distressing” footage, but witness accounts from the attack paint a chilling picture of events inside the packed mosque.
Farid Ahmed described hiding underneath a bench inside to escape from the shooter as he made his way through the building.
“People started rushing out, running out [and] the guy turned on them and started shooting them … so, I knew I had no chance,” he said.
“There was a bench, I just lie down [with] half my body under the bench and my legs out. Pretending to stop my breath. He changed magazines seven times. Bang, bang, bang, then when the bullets stop he [would] change the magazine again.
“The mosque is in a few compartments, he went to all different compartments and he shoot everyone.”
Ramzan, who is in a wheelchair, said the shooting went “for six minutes or more”.
“I could hear screaming and crying, I saw some people drop dead, some people were running away, I was in a wheelchair, so I couldn’t get anywhere,” he said.
He told reporters he pushed himself back into the mosque after the shooting ended, trying to find his wife and to help others.
“To the right, I saw about 20 plus people, some were dead, some were screaming. On the left there were 10 plus people, some were dead,” he said.
“I saw the bullet shells on the floor, so many hundreds.”
Ahmad Al-Mahmoud described seeing the shooter “coming through and shooting everyone in the mosque”. People were trying to push through closed doors and smash windows, he told Stuff.co.
“We’re trying to get everyone to run from the area because we couldn’t get everyone out through the door,” he said.
“I haven’t seen the guy correctly but he was wearing helmet and these things.
“[There was] at least over 50 bullets … [it was] quite fast … could be more than hundreds.”
Mohan Ibrahim told the New Zealand Herald he had been inside mosque when he heard shots being fired.
“At first we thought it was an electric shock but then all these people started running,” he said.
“I still have friends inside. I have been calling my friends but there are many I haven’t heard from. I am scared for my friends’ lives.”
Police have said a second shooting took place at the Linwood Masjid.
“The multiple fatalities are as far as we know are at two mosques (in Christchurch),” they said on Friday.
“We are unsure if there are any other locations under threat.”