A bus carrying members of the Bangladesh cricket team pulled up to the Masjid Al Noor Mosque in New Zealand just as gunfire erupted inside the house of worship amid a prayer service Friday afternoon.
Team manager Khaled Mashud said the athletes and coaching staff were about 50 yards away when the carnage kicked off inside the mosque in central Christchurch, not far away from the Hagley Oval cricket ground.
“I would say we are really lucky,” Mashud told espncricinfo.com. “Had we reached even three or four minutes earlier, we probably would have been inside the mosque. This could have been a massive incident.”
At least 40 people were killed when a gunman stormed inside the Al Noor Mosque on Deans Avenue and opened fire, police said. Another seven people died during an attack at the Linwood Mosque, located just a few miles away, and one person died in the hospital from their injuries.
Mohammad Isam, a reporter traveling with the team, told AFP that the “distraught” players “got inside a bus and laid down on the floor after” learning about the mass incident unfolding nearby. The majority of the team, which is currently on tour in New Zealand, were on the bus at the time of the deadly attack.
One man was arrested and charged with murder in what Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called a “clear” terrorist attack and “an extraordinary and unprecedented act of violence.” Another two suspects, discovered armed and at the scenes, were also being held in police custody.
Wicketkeeper batsman Mashfiqur Rahim tweeted that he was “extremely lucky” to avoid the attack while Batsman Tamim requested fans keep the team in mind in wake of the “frightening experience.”
“Just escaped active shooters! Heartbeats pumping badly and panic everywhere!” Bangladesh team analyst Shrinivas Chandrasekaran said on Twitter.
New Zealand Cricket said that all players and support staff were “safe and accounted for” following the shooting, one of the deadliest the country has ever faced.
“On behalf of New Zealand Cricket heartfelt condolences to those affected. I’ve spoken to my counterpart at Bangladesh cricket — we agree it’s inappropriate to play cricket at this time,” chief executive David White said.
“We are all shocked and appalled … and we are offering support to all those within the teams affected by the situation.”
The test match in Christchurch, slated to be the third this season between the teams, was the first to be cancelled since 2002, when a match between Pakistan and New Zealand in Karachi was called off after a terrorist bombing in the city.
With News Wire Services