Falkirk author relives Tunisian beach terror

Injured holidaymaker are treated on the beach after the attack. Picture: Tunisia TV1 via AP
Injured holidaymaker are treated on the beach after the attack. Picture: Tunisia TV1 via AP
  • Author was in resort to write his second book
  • Noise of massacre msound like fireworks
  • Atmosphere is Tunisia changed days before attack

A Falkirk traveller has told how blood from the victims of the Tunisian beach massacre turned the sand the colour of terracotta.

Cal Sarwar flew back to Glasgow today after being in Sousse, where he was researching a book on Islamic terrorism in Africa.

From what I was told the guy had a Kalashnikov, he had reloaded several times

Cal Sarwar

The 50-year-old journalist from Falkirk had been staying in a neighbouring hotel when student Seifeddine Rezgui targeted western tourists on the beach area of the RIU Imperial Marhaba and the RIU Bellevue.

Mr Sarwar had been swimming in a pool just metres away from the scene, when he thought he heard fireworks.

But when he came up from under the water, he saw “pandemonium” with panicked holidaymakers running past.

He recalled: “I was in the pool, I wasn’t on the beach, the pool is about 25 metres from the beach.

“I swim with earplugs in, so I was swimming away and I put my head up and saw people running past. The gunman had already run past by the time I put my head up out of the water.

“That was it, people screaming, pandemonium, chaos.”

He added: “I was there writing my second book and it’s ironic that this was happening.”

Mr Sarwar said: “I heard something, I heard fireworks, from what I was told the guy had a Kalashnikov, he had reloaded several times.

“He went past me, I was told, I didn’t see him.

“We went to the beach and it was a terracotta colour, the blood had mixed with the sand, it was just terracotta everywhere, like somebody had been painting. People were dragging people out of the water, it was quite a horrible scene.

“When you see something like that you just don’t expect it. I’m shocked and I will be for a long time.”

He said there had been a heightened security presence in the area in the days before the attack, but said it had been scaled back just the day before.

“Four days before the attack the whole atmosphere on the streets of Tunisia changed,” Mr Sarwar said.

“Instead of taxis taking you right to your hotel doors they would drop you off at the gates, there were police blocks at the gates. But that security presence disappeared on Thursday afternoon, on Thursday afternoon we were allowed once again to take our taxis and get dropped off at the hotels again.”

He added: “They were preparing for something, but I don’t think they expected it to come from the water.”

Sandra Clason (53) said she and her partner James Erskine heard the gunfire from the attack, adding the hotel they were in was “too close for comfort”.

Ms Clason, from Bo’ness, in West Lothian, told how they had been coming out of their hotel room when they heard the shots.

She said: “It was surreal, you hear it, and you know it’s gunfire, but it was like fireworks. You could hear it getting closer, then nothing.”

She added: “We were coming down but we were told to get back to the room. We were one of the lucky ones. We were too close for comfort.”

The holidaymaker said: “I was quite frightened, I thought it was the end. We were just told to stay in the hotel, to stay close. So we din’t go anywhere after, just stayed safe at the hotel.”

Afterwards she said the atmosphere in the area was “quite glum”.

She added: “It’s very sad for the Tunisians because that will be the end of their economy basically.”