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At Least 1 Dead, Dozens Injured After Van Strikes Crowd In Barcelona, Police Say


Updated at 1:20 p.m. ET

A van drove into a crowd of people on a popular pedestrian street in Barcelona, Spain, on Thursday, killing at least one person and injuring at least 32 others. Police say the driver fled the scene and that a search is underway.

Regional police are describing the deadly incident on Las Ramblas boulevard as a terrorist attack. Police initially reported there were multiple fatalities but said at an evening news conference that they could confirm one death. Meanwhile, some local media were reporting more than a dozen people were killed.

The white van slammed into scores of people after it mounted a sidewalk by Placa Catalunya, according to multiple media reports. Nearby metro stops, shops and restaurants have closed down.

On Twitter, the Catalan police force described the incident as a "massive trampling ... by a person with a van." Authorities were urging everyone in Barcelona to avoid the area and remain calm.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said on Twitter that he's in contact with authorities and that the priority is "tending to the wounded in Las Ramblas and facilitating the work of security forces."

Barcelona, a popular tourist destination, is the capital of Spain's autonomous Catalonia region, which has a distinct language and culture. Placa Catalunya is a large public square in the city center, popular as a tourist attraction and well-visited as a transit hub. Las Ramblas boulevard, which includes a famous pedestrian path, terminates in the plaza.

Authorities have advised the public to avoid both the square and the boulevard (also called La Rambla). Anyone in the region should stay where they are, officials say, and communicate via social media instead of telephone to avoid overwhelming the phone system.

Videos posted on social media show pedestrians fleeing the area.

Vehicular attacks have grown increasingly common as weapons of terror.

Massive car attacks struck Berlin and the French city of Nice in 2016. This past weekend, an accused white supremacist drove his car into a crowd of anti-racist protesters, killing one, in an incident U.S. authorities described as domestic terrorism.

Last December, Aki Peritz reported for NPR that it's difficult to prevent such attacks: "The potential targets are too numerous to defend them all," she says, and "a vehicle attack takes only one determined attacker."

This is a breaking news story. As often happens in situations like these, some information reported early may turn out to be inaccurate. We'll move quickly to correct the record and we'll only point to the best information we have at the time.

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