Paris attacks: Former Montrealer says he saw gunfire and ran

Two former Montreal residents were close enough to Friday's attacks in Paris to see the flashes of guns going off and people running in all directions.

Quebecers voice sympathy and support for France in wake of deadly attacks

Investigating police officers work outside the Stade de France stadium after an international friendly soccer match France against Germany, in Saint Denis, outside Paris on Friday. (The Associated Press)

Two former Montreal residents were close enough to Friday's attacks in Paris to see the flashes of guns going off and people running in all directions.

Medhy Djerrah, a French national who lived in Montreal from 2010 to 2015, and his girlfriend, Montrealer Andrea O'Connor, were sitting by a bridge over the Canal Saint-Martin when they heard what Djerrah thought were firecrackers going off.

Four minutes later, they heard it again, but this time the sound was much closer.

"People around us stood up to see what it was. Many started running in the opposite direction," Djerrah said.

He still wasn't convinced it was gunfire until he turned and saw the muzzle flashes not far from them. 

Montrealer Andrea O'Connor and Medhy Djerrah moved to Paris in September and witnessed Friday's attack. (Facebook)

"I could see flashes and flames coming out of the guns," he said.

The couple lived close by and ran home to safety through back alleys.

"Once we understood it was shooting and they were targeting people, we decided the back streets would be safest," he said. 

The couple live about five minutes by car from the theatre where it's reported that 100 people died.

"We were about to start walking in that direction when the shooting started," he said. "It's just by chance that we didn't end up in the line of fire."

Djerrah said he and O'Connor then followed government orders to stay inside.

Quebecers react to Paris attacks

A group of around 100 people gathered under umbrellas outside the French consulate in downtown Montreal Friday night to light candles and comfort one another. 

Together they sang "La Marseillaise," France's national anthem, a number of times.

A second vigil is being organized at the consulate for Saturday afternoon. 

Flags at half-mast

Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre ordered the flags at City Hall lowered to half-mast.

In a statement, Coderre said he had been in touch with the Mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, to express Montreal's condolences.

"We are with Parisians in their grief and the struggle against all violence. Tonight, we are all Parisians," he said.

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard also ordered the flags at the National Assembly in Quebec City lowered to half-mast, as well as flags at the province's international delegations.

Couillard tweeted that his government "strongly condemns" the attacks, saying "our thoughts are with the people of France in these difficult moments."

He also tweeted that Christine St-Pierre, Quebec's Minister of International Relations, has been assured that employees of Quebec's diplomatic delegation in Paris are all safe.

St-Pierre tweeted that she had spoken with France's consul-general in Quebec and expressed the province's solidarity.

Justin Trudeau, Thomas Mulcair stand with France

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told journalists that Canada has offered its help to the French government, as well as its sympathies. 

"Obviously our hearts and thoughts are with our French cousins during this terrible time," he said. 

Trudeau said he has also spoken with his national security advisors to ensure that all steps are taken to protect Canadians.

"We will keep Canadians informed as the situation develops," he said. 

Federal NDP leader Thomas Mulcair also tweeted about his shock at the news of the attacks in Paris.

Solidarity with France

People around Quebec also turned to Twitter to express solidarity with France.

Paris-bound flights delayed

Two Paris-bound flights were delayed on Friday, though a spokeswoman for Aéroports de Montréal, the city's airport authority, said there were no plans to cancel flights to the French capital.

Marie-Claude Desgagnés said if that changes, that information will be updated immediately on the authority's website.