At least nine people have been killed and many more injured, according to German police, after a truck ploughed into a Christmas market in Berlin in what is believed to have been a deliberate attack.A vehicle, a large black Scania articulated lorry, ran into the market outside the landmark Kaiser Wilhelm memorial church on Monday evening.German police said one person was found dead in the lorry, having died of injuries sustained in the crash, while a suspect was arrested about 100 metres away from the scene in the Tiergarten.
A witness told the Guardian that the truck ploughed into the market at speed. “It was not an accident. The truck was going 40mph. It was in the middle of a square, there are main roads either side, [where it could have come from]. But it showed no sign of slowing down,” said Emma Rushton.She said it crashed into a stall only a few feet from where she and her friend were standing. “We heard a massive bang. About eight to 10 feet in front of us was where the lorry ploughed through. It ploughed through the stall where we bought our mulled wine.“It ploughed through people and the wooden huts, it tore the lights down. Everything went dark, it was black and there was screaming. It was awful,” she said.
Rushton said they did not know if the incident was over once the truck stopped, so they stayed still. “The people in the huts were under it but they were pulled out and they were fine. We didn’t know if something else was coming.“We walked where the lorry had ploughed through and saw injured people and blood. We saw 10 to 12 people.”Another witness, Mike Fox, told the Associated Press that the truck missed him by about three metres as it drove into the market, tearing through tables and market stalls.“It was definitely deliberate,” said the tourist from Birmingham. He said he helped people who appeared to have broken limbs, and that others were trapped under Christmas stands.
A German government spokesman said Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, was being briefed by the interior minister and Berlin’s mayor. Wolfgang Bosbach, an MP with the Christian Democrats, Merkel’s party, told media: “Although there is a host of unanswered questions, indications are it was a deliberate attack, carried out not just with the greatest brutality and disastrous consequences but also with a deliberate symbolism. Just a few days before Christmas, in the middle of the German capital and amidst happy, peaceful people. The message is clear: no matter where, no matter how, we can pounce at any time.”Berlin’s mayor, Michael Müller, said: “What we’re seeing here is dramatic and a shock to us all. We hope what our fears that his is an attack won’t prove true. Our thoughts are with the families of the injured and dead.”
Police said they could not confirm whether it was a deliberate attack or an accident. They said the truck had a run-up of about 80 metres and that the vehicle had a Polish registration, though they could not confirm whether or not that was authentic. Spokesperson Winfried Wenzel called the scene “devastating”.Officers said the lorry came from the direction of Budapester Strasse, over the pavement, coming to a halt by a Christmas tree in front of the church. Known locally as the jagged tooth, the church was bombed in the second world war, and left more or less in its ruined state as a memorial to the victims of the war. It is one of the most popular tourist sites in Berlin, and very close to the Berlin zoo.
Police have cleared the area and volunteers have set up an information point for relatives looking for news of missing loved ones. The Christmas market has been cleared, and a police spokesman said there are concerns the crash may have also caused a gas leak.A photograph posted by the Morgenpost newspaper showed damaged tables and stalls, while footage posted online by the same outlet showed a truck on the scene and police officers investigating. The Berliner Zeitung said police also believed there to be multiple injuries.Breitscheidplatz, where the market was set up, is one of Berlin’s busiest shopping areas.
The incident evoked memories of an attack in July in Nice, France, that left 86 people dead. A Tunisian-born man drove a 19-tonne truck along the beach front, striking down people who had gathered to watch the fireworks on Bastille Day. The attack was claimed by Islamic State.Sven Gerling, a spokesman for the Berlin fire service, said: “At about 8pm, we saw a tragic accident happen here on Breitscheidplatz. A lorry drove through the crowds of people. There are many people injured, many seriously injured ... people have been killed.“We are at the scene with a large number of vehicles, the police are too. We are now going to ascertain the deaths, and look after the many injured. There are several resuscitations still going on. We are trying to save a number of lives.”