PARIS (Reuters) – French parents are struggling to comprehend the impact of a mass shooting at a school in a western French town on Friday and fear their children will be traumatised by the news.
The deadliest school shooting in modern France took place at the École Normale Supérieure (ENSS), a French-style school that prides itself on being a safe haven for children and families, with students from all over the country.
Many parents and school officials were shocked by the mass shooting, which left eight people dead and at least 50 others injured in a school playground.
“I was shocked,” said Xavier Vigier, whose son was in the classroom at the time.
“I have never seen anything like this.”
Vigier said the students were “scared and traumatised” and said he and his wife were worried their children would be traumatized by the shootings.
“My wife is worried about our children because we live in the same neighbourhood and they live in this area, so we are worried about them,” Vigiers said.
“It is very difficult for us.”
The shooting happened at a private school in the small town of Les Baieux near the city of Toulouse, about 100 km (62 miles) northwest of Paris.
Vigiers children had already left for school.
A local newspaper said some parents were worried that the children might have gone to the school and taken cover.
“We are afraid because there are many children and we can’t leave them in this condition,” said one of the parents, who did not want to be named.
France’s main public broadcaster said it had aired a special programme about the shooting.
A source close to the investigation told Reuters on Friday that a manhunt was under way in connection with the shootings at the school.
It was unclear whether the shooter was an individual or part of a larger group.
Vigilantes are seen in front of the French embassy in Washington November 17, 2017.
REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque The Écolet Normale is a private high school where children are separated from their families and put in private classes for a fee.
The school is located in a relatively small town in southwestern France, about 70 km (40 miles) south of Paris, in a small area with a population of about 1,000.
Schools are closed on Fridays in the town of Toussaint.
On Friday, the town’s mayor, Olivier Bensouw, said the shooting took place in the playground, which is open to the public.
“The tragedy is a very heavy one,” he said.
“We have a police presence in the area.”
This is a terrible tragedy,” he added.
School children gather in front to view the French flag during a memorial service for victims of the shooting at the French Écolle Normales Supéries school, in Les Baies, west of Paris November 17.
Reuters/Carlos Barria Bensouuw told Reuters the shooting occurred during a meeting of the school’s faculty and the principal’s office.
The gunman had a criminal record, including convictions for violent crimes, and had a record of having spent time in custody, he said, declining to say what that record was.
The Écomole Supériere is one of France’s largest public schools, and was established in 1949.
Its school building was built in the late 19th century in what was then a fishing village of about 2,000 people.
The building is a short walk from the Élysée Palace in Paris and houses the residences of the presidents of France and France’s five other presidents.
Its main school building is located on a quiet stretch of road in the heart of the town.
The Ecomole is a relatively quiet place, but a number of other schools in nearby villages, including the Étoile Supéry Supérer in Vaucluse and the Éton Supéritre in La Rochelle, also have large grounds and a large playground.
In a statement, the school said it was working with police to investigate the shooting and that it had offered support to the victims’ families.”
In addition to the staff and students, the Écomote Supéres family is supported by the French government and its institutions, the French Civil Guard and the French national police,” it said.
School shootings have become more common in France since the Paris attacks last November that killed 130 people.
France has a total of around 5,500 schools with more than 7,500 classrooms.
The number of confirmed shootings in France fell to 1,845 on Friday from 3,746 on Thursday, the national police said in a statement.
There were 855 reported mass shootings in the United States in 2017, according to data from the FBI.