WITH declaration of emergency in France in the wake of coordinated terrorist attacks in Paris that killed over 120 and injured more than 200 Friday night, French expatriates living in the financial capital and elsewhere in India spent an anxious Saturday worrying for families and friends’ safety.
Siddharth Gogel (36), living at Kemps Corner in South Mumbai, was woken up by a call to check news at 5 am Saturday. “All my family members and friends are safe at home. Luckily, none of them had ventured out,” he said, adding that while he had not visited La Casa Nostra, Le Belle Equipe Bar or Petit Cambodge restaurant and Le Carillon Bar, he had been to the Stade de France and Bataclan Concert Hall. These were the six locations where the terror attacks took place. “Bataclan is like a banquet hall that holds some or the other artistic event every day. It is very famous and usually full,” he said.
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Gogel, a French enterpreneur, was born and brought up in Paris and currently lives in Mumbai. He said he was happy the situation was brought under control within a few hours after the first terror attack struck. “From what I hear, medical help was quickly dispensed to every victim,” he added.
Lauren, a fashion designer, said a friend was missing back home. “My friend attended the concert at Bataclan Hall and has been missing ever since. We are still trying to trace her and I feel helpless as I am very far away,” said Lauren, currently living in Delhi.
Following a city-wide curfew, her family is only stepping out to visit other family members to ensure they are safe. While Parisians usually like spending time outdoors during weekends for meals or events, Lauren said the attacks would force several to now remain indoors. “After the attacks, we will need some time to pick ourselves up and feel safe again,” she said.
According to an official from the French Consulate in Mumbai, an emergency helpline number was made available for people searching for their family members visiting Paris. Meanwhile, while no Indian casualties have been reported in the Paris attacks, the Indian Embassy also started helpline numbers +33(0)145558000 and +33(0)140507070.
Several French students living in India immediately contacted their families after hearing the news. “The news came as a huge shock to me and my French friends in college. We are trying to stay calm as there is no way that we can be with our families at this moment,” said Benjamin Bru, a management student in Bangalore.
“It is very difficult being so far away from home when my family and friends are going through a very grievous time. It is not easy to ensure that everyone I know in Paris is safe, so I can only hope for the best,” said Iris Strill, another fashion designer.
In a statement, Ambassador of France to India Francois Richier said, “At this stage, no Indian national has been identified among the casualties… An information phone line for tourists and visitors in Paris has been established. As far as India is concerned, security measures of the French diplomatic and institutional premises are being beefed up.”