Barcelona church shelters 800 people after terrorist attack


More than 800 people found shelter in the Basilica of Santa Maria del Pi as they fled from the horror and chaos of the 17 Aug terrorist attack in the historic center of Barcelona. The church is close to Las Ramblas, the popular tourist area where a van plowed into a crowd on Aug. 17, killing 13 people and injuring more than 100. The Basilica, built in the 14th century, has a long history of welcoming those in need; it has previously welcomed immigrants, and off ed them use of its facilities.

From the balcony of the archives, Jordi Sacasas, the Basilica’s archivist, the church sacristan and several other people in the Basilica archives could see people stampeding soon after the attack took place. “When we saw this, we went down to the church doors and brought in those fleeing. Police orders were for people to take shelter, and as the basilica has a large entrance, we could offer shelter to a lot of people,” Sarcasas said.

After closing the doors, the Basilica employees tried to calm the terrifiedpeople inside. “We were providing information in French, English and Italian over the church’s sound system, since the majority of the people were tourists and we had a person who could speak several languages…We were providing information that the regional government and the police were sending us, so there would be clear information.”

Church employees treated those suffering from mnor injuries from falling in the stampede caused by the attack. “We cared for the injured who were hurt as they fled, especially the older people, because the emergency services were overwhelmed with more serious injuries,” he said.

Local businesses also tried to help those taking refuge inside the church, offering food and drink during the three-hour lockdown before the police allowed people to leave the area. “One bakery almost emptied its shelves bringing us bread, sandwiches. A cafe brought us water. What was impressive and so moving was the solidarity of people in such dramatic moments,” Sacasas said.

IS has claimed responsibility for the 17 Aug Barcelona attack. Spanish police shot and killed the suspected driver of the van, and arrested several other individuals believed to be involved in a local terrorist group. One of those arrested said that there was alarger plot that involved the bombing of several major monuments, including the iconic Sagrada Familia basilica.

ACN Malta