50 shot dead ...

Pakistan Observer - - IN­TER­NA­TIONAL -

President Obama was briefed on the at­tack by Lisa Monaco, as­sis­tant to the president for home­land se­cu­rity and coun­tert­er­ror­ism, the White House said, and asked to re­ceive reg­u­lar up­dates on the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

The gun­man was shot by SWAT of­fi­cers who stormed Pulse, one of the largest gay clubs in Or­lando, at about 5 a.m. The of­fi­cers were try­ing to res­cue dozens of peo­ple who were be­ing held hostage, Chief Mina said.

The shoot­ing be­gan in­side the club, he said, and con­tin­ued out­side when an of­fi­cer work­ing at Pulse tried to con­front him. The gun­man then ran back into the club, re­sumed shoot­ing and took hostages.

At 5 a.m., Chief Mina said, the po­lice de­cided to at­tempt a res­cue, det­o­nat­ing two ex­plo­sives to dis­tract the gun­man and to help clear the club.

“With that ad­van­tage,” the chief said, nine of­fi­cers moved into the club to con­front the gun­man. In the en­su­ing shootout, one of the of­fi­cers was slightly wounded, saved by his Kevlar hel­met, the au­thor­i­ties said.

Dur­ing the res­cue and shootout, of­fi­cers with the SWAT team — us­ing an ar­mored ve­hi­cle — en­tered the club and hur­ried peo­ple to safety. Many of them had sought shel­ter in other sec­tions of the sprawl­ing club.

The sur­vivors es­caped un­der the cover of what the po­lice called the two “dis­cre­tionary ex­plo­sions.”

The wounded were taken to three hos­pi­tals in the area. Most were taken to Or­lando Re­gional Med­i­cal Cen­ter, the area’s chief trauma cen­ter, which is three blocks from the club.

On its Twit­ter feed, the Or­lando Po­lice De­part­ment asked other res­i­dents to “stay away from area” and said that it was seek­ing sup­port from state and fed­eral agen­cies. Later, em­ploy­ees in the area were asked to stay home if pos­si­ble.

The club it­self posted a mes­sage on its Face­book page about 3 a.m.: “Ev­ery­one get out of pulse and keep run­ning.”

Peo­ple streamed out of the club into a chaotic sit­u­a­tion with lit­tle idea of where to go. “Cops were say­ing, ‘Go, go, clear the area,’” Christo­pher Hansen told an Or­lando TV sta­tion. “You don’t know who’s what and who’s where.”

As the sun came up, video shot from a he­li­copter showed a sit­u­a­tion that seemed to be un­der con­trol, although win­dows on one side of the club ap­peared to be shot out.

Phone cam­era videos showed po­lice cars, am­bu­lances and other emer­gency ve­hi­cles out­side the club on South Or­ange Av­enue in down­town Or­lando. Streets around the club were shut down for sev­eral blocks.

Dozens of of­fi­cers, paramedics and fire­fight­ers from the Or­lando po­lice, the Or­ange County Sher­iff’s Of­fice, the F.B.I. and three fire de­part­ments were called to the scene.

“This will have a last­ing ef­fect on our com­mu­nity,” Chief Mina said. “We are a strong com­mu­nity.”

In the hours af­ter the shoot­ing, lo­cal tele­vi­sion sta­tions broad­cast cam­era phone videos that cap­tured the chaos at and near Pulse. One of the videos clearly cap­tured the res­cue at­tempt. Shots could be heard as men and women ran from the night­club.

Or­lando Re­gional Med­i­cal Cen­ter was placed on lock­down af­ter re­ceiv­ing the first of the vic­tims. “Only es­sen­tial work­ers are be­ing al­lowed ac­cess into the build­ing,” the hos­pi­tal said in a state­ment.

“Out of an abun­dance of cau­tion, Arnold Palmer Hos­pi­tal and Win­nie Palmer Hos­pi­tal have also been placed on lock­down,” the state­ment added.

On Pulse’s Face­book page, club of­fi­cials promised to post up­dates as they came in: “As soon as we have any in­for­ma­tion, we will up­date ev­ery­one.” “Please keep ev­ery­one in your prayers as we work through this tragic event,” the night­club’s post said. “Thank you for your thoughts and love.”

The Gay, Les­bian, Bi­sex­ual, Trans­gen­der Com­mu­nity Cen­ter of Cen­tral Florida said it was of­fer­ing grief coun­sel­ing to vic­tims and sur­vivors.

Of­fi­cials at Or­lando Re­gional Med­i­cal Cen­ter asked mem­bers of the fam­i­lies of vic­tims and miss­ing peo­ple to gather at the north en­trance, where they would be es­corted in­side.

Lo­cal tele­vi­sion sta­tions broad­cast in­ter­views with peo­ple out­side the club and the hos­pi­tal who were anx­iously wait­ing to hear from peo­ple who they said were still in­side.

The club, which calls it­self “Or­lando’s Latin Hotspot,” hosts an “Up­scale Latin Satur­days” party on Satur­day nights with three D.J.s and a mid­night show.

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