Tourists crowded into the airport near the coastal city of Sousse, Tunisia where a young man dressed in shorts on Friday pulled an assault rifle out of his beach umbrella and killed 38 people, mostly tourists.
At the Imperial Marhaba Hotel in Sousse where the Tunisia attack took place, vans and buses were carrying away tourists on Saturday. While the hotel wasn’t actually closing down, the tour operators had urged everyone to leave, the director said.
“We may have zero clients today but we will keep our staff,” said Mohammed Becheur, adding the 370-room hotel had been at 75 percent occupancy before the attack.
On the beach, there was as scattering of tourists while police on horses rode along the beach and their security boats patrolled along the coast.
Tourism is a key part of Tunisia’s economy and had already fallen some 25 percent after the March museum attack.
“It’s really sad but what can you do, for everyone, for the tourists, for the people who died, for their families,” said Belgian tourist Clause Besser, as he recovered in the hospital from a gunshot wound he received fleeing from the attacker. “For me, somehow, with a bullet in the leg, it’s not a catastrophe. For those who died or were injured for life, it’s something else.”
British travel companies Thomson and First Choice said they are flying back thousands of tourists from Tunisia on Saturday and are cancelling all flights to the country in the coming week. Tourist flights from Ireland to Tunisia have continued in the wake of the attack, but travel agents are offering full refunds for those canceling.
Slovakia has sent a plane to evacuate about 150 of its citizens who are in Tunisia, according to the Foreign Ministry. Scandinavia tour operators say they are flying thousands of people out of Tunisia over the next days.
“Since yesterday, there have been about 15 extra flights scheduled at the airport with nine already leaving carrying 1,400 passengers,” said Mohamed Walid Ben Ghachem, director of the Enfidha-Hammamet Airport.
Waiting for his flight, British tourist Matthew Price said that he was cutting his weeklong vacation short by three days. Even though it was his third visit to Tunisia, he expected it to be his last.
“It’s the first time I’ve ever been on holiday and feared for my life. So obviously you can’t come back somewhere it’s not safe,” he said.
The Tunisian Health Ministry has confirmed the nationalities of 10 of the 38 victims of the attack, including eight Britons, a Belgian and a German. Ireland’s government said an Irish nurse was also among those who were killed.
Relatives and family friends say Lorna Carty was fatally shot as she sunbathed. She and her husband, Declan, had received the holiday as a present to help Declan Carty relax following his recent heart surgery. Family friends speaking to the couple’s two children said Lorna Carty went ahead of her husband to the beach, where she was shot and she was later pronounced dead at a hospital.
Of the wounded, 24 were Britons, seven Tunisian, three Belgian as well as a German, Russian and Ukrainian and one unidentified, said the Health Ministry. Two were still in critical condition.
While many tourists have left, Welsh couple Angela Chambers and Peter Phillips said from the beach near where the attack took place that they had declined their tour operator’s offer to take them to the airport last night.
“We want to see our holiday out,” Phillips said.