The shooting happened in the afternoon on Friday, the Stuff news outlet reported. The outlet added, citing former president of the Muslim Association of Canterbury, Mohammed Jama, that around 01:40 p.m. local time on Friday, a gunman entered a mosque in Christchurch and opened fire as around 300 people were inside the building praying.
The emergency department of the Christchurch Hospital has reportedly been cleared out. Meanwhile, Radio New Zealand reported, citing a local child care center manager, that almost 30 people had been injured or killed by the Christchurch mosque gunman. According to Otago Daily Times, at least 27 reported dead. Moreover, an active shooting has also been reportedly unfolding at the city hospital.
New Zealand Herald reported, that the second mosque targeted by the attack was located in the suburb of Linwood. Police advised local residents to stay indoors, while local schools and public buildings have reportedly been placed on lockdown.
2/2… off the streets and indoors until further notice. Christchurch schools will be locked down until further notice.Police thanks the public for their cooperation and will provide further updates to keep residents informed.— New Zealand Police (@nzpolice) 15 марта 2019 г.
New Zealand's police said that one individual was in custody and there have been multiple fatalities due to a firearms incident in New Zealand's east coast city of Christchurch where mass shootings have been reported at three locations.
"We have one person in custody but we are unsure if there are other people. Multiple fatalities are, as far as we know, at two locations — a mosque at Deans Ave and another mosque at Linwood Ave, Christchurch", Commissioner Mike Bush said in a video statement published by police on Facebook. "We are unsure if there are any other locations outside of that area that are under threat", Bush added.
The police subsequently wrote on Twitter that they were working "at a number of scenes".
4/5…residents to stay inside. We ask all mosques nationally to shut their doors, and advise that people refrain from visiting these premises until further notice.— New Zealand Police (@nzpolice) 15 марта 2019 г.
According to local media reports, the authorities have identified the shooter as 28-year-old Australian-born man Brenton Tarrant.
Country's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has described the Christchurch mass shooting as 'one of New Zealand's darkest days', stressing that "clearly, what has happened here is an extraordinary and unprecedented act of violence".
"For now my thoughts and I'm sure the thoughts of all New Zealanders are with those who have been affected and also with the families," Ardern added. The prime minister added that the authorities were "potentially still dealing with an evolving situation".
The video of Ardern's statement was aired Friday by local TV broadcasters.
Meanwhile, Christchurch mayor Lianne Dalziel said she was "shocked beyond words" by the shootings. "I would never have expected anything like this to happen in Christchurch, I'd never expect this to happen in New Zealand", Dalziel said as quoted by the Stuff news outlet.
Meanwhile, New Zealand's charitable healthcare organization St John said 20 of its ambulance cars and operational vehicles had been working on the scene of a firearms incident in the center of the city of Christchurch.
"St John was notified of a firearms incident in Central Christchurch at 1.53pm Friday afternoon [00:53 GMT on Saturday]. We have approximately 20 emergency ambulances and operational vehicles at scene providing support and will continue to update you as information comes to hand", the charity said in a statement.
Mass shootings are reportedly rare in New Zealand, which tightened its gun laws to restrict access to semi-automatic rifles in 1992, two years after a mentally disturbed man shot dead 13 people in the South Island town of Aramoana, according to AFP. According to local legislation, anyone over 16 can apply for a standard firearms licence after doing a safety course, which allows them to purchase and use a shotgun unsupervised.