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Reporter In Barcelona Describes Scene Immediately After Deadly Van Attack


We're following the latest developments in Barcelona. Around 5:30 local time this evening, a van plowed through the tourist-heavy Las Ramblas district, swerving from side to side as it made its way through the crowd. Police say at least 13 people were killed. At least 100 people are injured. The Islamic State claimed responsibility, and Vice President Mike Pence has vowed a response.


VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE: Whatever inspired today's terror attack, the United States stands ready to assist the people of Spain and find and punish those responsible.


Jim Kent runs an English-language radio station in Barcelona. He went to the place where the attack happened shortly after it happened.

JIM KENT: It was chaotic. The police had already begun to cordon off the actual area of the initial incident, but there were crowds of ambulances and police cars trying to attend. Very quickly, the news got distributed around about the details of this white transit van that had driven into the crowd and that maybe up to 50 people were seen lying on the ground. There was a loud bang, which caused panic also. Two occupants of the vehicle left. And initial reports suggested they were held up in a cafe.

Consequently, we now know that not to be the case. They fled away, and the police obviously chased them. For me personally, I was now at the base of Las Ramblas, so I'm a few hundred meters away from the actual scene where the police were expanding this cordoned-off area which they continued to expand over the next few hours as the scale of the incident was really identified.

News then began to trickle out about - the police were searching for a second van in another location, which was consequently found in a place called Vic, which is about 50 miles outside of the city. There was also reports then of gunfire exchange in another part of Barcelona, which we now know are between one of the occupants of the vehicle and the police.

MCEVERS: Did you see these people exit the van when you got there? Were you that close?

KENT: No, I didn't see the chase start. Here in Barcelona, there's a pretty active community of people on WhatsApp. And people were sharing images and details that way, which - before they appeared on the media.

MCEVERS: And for people who have not been to Barcelona or to this part of Barcelona, can you just describe it a little bit?

KENT: Las Ramblas is the iconic central tree-lined boulevard of the city. Normally it's absolutely beautiful. And it's filled with tourists and lots of little shops and stands as you walk up and down this street. August is a month when a lot of the locals go away on holiday - so not too many Catalans. But the city has a perpetual stream of tourists from all over the world, including many from the United States of America who would have been here at this time.

MCEVERS: And what's it like now? I mean how are people doing as the area - have you been, you know, back to the area? Is it pretty quiet? Is everything still cordoned and closed off?

KENT: Sure. So last time I was there, yes, it was still cordoned off, the main area. They've tried to divert the city's transport system away also from that part of the city. So for example, you know, there's thousands of people traveling in from the airport. All of those connections are going to a different location, which is why I'm speaking to you now, in fact. I guess we hope that things will begin to return to normality tomorrow morning, is the hope. But we - I guess we just need to wait and see.

I would say, you know, there's a bit of an eerie - there's an eerie calm as people digest what has happened. Meanwhile, we've got other people arriving. It's hard to know how much they really know about what happened here tonight. You know, it's such a transient city with so many travelers. I'm not sure whether these people realize what really happened.

MCEVERS: That's Jim Kent. He runs the English-language radio station Barcelona City FM. He went to Las Ramblas this evening after the van attack there. Thanks for talking to us.

KENT: Thank you.

MCEVERS: And we are learning that there was an explosion south of Barcelona yesterday that killed one person. Authorities now say that was related to today's attack. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.