At least 50 people are dead and 53 injured after a gunman opened fire at a gay club in Orlando, Florida. The FBI have identified a suspect and declared the incident an act of domestic terrorism. “We’re dealing with something that we never imagined and is unimaginable,” the city’s Mayor, Buddy Dyer, said this afternoon, as he declared a state of emergency for the city.
The initial shooting began at around 2am inside Pulse, one of Orlando’s biggest nightclubs. A hostage situation developed and at 5am police entered the building and killed the gunman.
It is estimated that about 320 people were inside the venue when the shooting began. Soon after, the club’s Facebook page posted the following message: “Everyone get out of pulse and keep running”.
Dozens have been taken to hospital, where the focus is now on the provision of emergency support for the victims and their families. An appeal for blood donors and a call for witnesses have been made, and a crisis hotline has been set up to help relations look for loved ones.
The US president, Barack Obama, has made a statement on the shootings, saying, “This is an especially heartbreaking day for all of our friends and fellow Americans who are lesbian, gay, transgender and bisexual.” Presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump has tweeted: “Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism, I don’t want congrats, I want toughness & vigilance. We must be smart!”
The death toll has already surpassed that of the two previous deadliest shootings in U.S. history – 32 killed at Virginia Tech in 2007 and 27 at Sandy Hook in 2012 – and has been condemned by leaders around the world. Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic candidate has described the news as “devastating”.