AS if further proof were needed that the recent spate of attacks in Germany and France have imparted a general case of the heebie-jeebies across Europe, a group of hare-brained young Germans in the Catalan resort of Platja d’Aro managed to spark a terror alert and widespread panic on August 2, as they played a game in which they posed as paparazzi pursuing a fictitious celebrity.
The farcical incident broke out around 10pm, as a flashmob of around 200 people who had been communicating by social media assembled, before careering through the town centre, whooping and hollering in German as they brandished selfie sticks and tripods, which some mistook to be weapons as panic broke out on nearby terraces.
A number of locals joined the stampede, which merely added to the sense of pandemonium, while others hid under tables or barricaded themselves into shops, as the local police switchboard went into meltdown during the first few second of the hullabaloo, with the 112 emergency services receiving over 100 calls.
Events culminated in a full-on stampede, with chairs being flung aside and traffic cut off as the Mossos d’Esquadra (Catalan police) descended onto the scene, with some people screaming that shots had been fired, and two individuals taken to hospital after suffering panic attacks.
One terrified individual posted from inside one of the shops: “At this very moment a man armed with a gun has fired a shot in the main street causing terror among hundreds of people who were on bar terraces and in the shops and who have started running terrified in the opposite direction.
“We are locked in with a group of people at a Mango store. Police cars have just gone by. We don’t have any more information at this moment in time.”
A municipal source attempted to explain the extreme sheep effect, as he said: “When one person runs, the rest also run, and that is very difficult to stop.”
As calm eventually began to descend, local police nabbed five of the ringleaders and took them to the Mossos station in nearby Sant Feliu de Guixols, where they were charged with disorderly conduct, as it transpired that the entire mob were part of a tour group staying at Camping Vall d’Aro, and they had decided to create the flashmob for a laugh rather than to put the willies up hapless residents and tourists.
National Police later posted a “Warning to idiots” on Twitter, which said that “simulating an attack and faking a terror alert can be a crime,” adding that offenders could be handed a three-month prison sentence.