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Finnish school kept children safe in classrooms after shooting

Vantaa school shooting

By Essi Lehto and Anne Kauranen

VANTAA (Reuters) - Teachers shut classroom doors to protect their pupils after a shooting incident at a school in the Helsinki suburb of Vantaa on Tuesday morning, pupils and parents said.

Police suspect a 12-year-old boy of having shot a fellow pupil dead and seriously wounded two others at around 9 a.m. as school day was beginning at the Viertola comprehensive school in a peaceful neighbourhood near the capital.

More than 100 worried parents had to wait for hours outside the school until at 12:15 local time police finally deemed it safe to let out the children, some of whom were crying from relief as their parents met them with hugs.

One of the parents was 35-year-old Samuela Anno, who rushed to the school to pick up her 9-year-old son.

"He sent me a message, at around 09:30, that mommy, everything is okay, I'm okay, our teachers are reading us books but I didn't understand the message," Anno told Reuters as her son shivered from the cold wind beside her.

Children emerged from the school without their outdoor jackets and clothes which they had to leave behind.

Anno said she had understood her son's message only a moment later, when a friend of hers called to warn that a shooting incident had taken place at the school.

Another mother, 50-year-old social worker Tanja Hietamies stood in line to pick up her 11-year-old daughter, also a pupil at the school.

Hietamies said it had taken an hour before her daughter could send her a message that she was safe.

"She said they were in a dark, locked classroom, not allowed to speak on the phone but could send messages," she told Reuters as she waited for her daughter to be let out, adding that the girl was scared and anxious.

One mother, who said her 5th grader Russian-speaking son had been bullied at the school, told Reuters he had not felt safe at the school.

"(My son) recently spoke about the fact that he is afraid of a school shooting," she said.

Police said it was too early to comment on the motive of the suspected perpetrator, who was a 6th grader.

Business manager Sanna Ytterstrom said she found out about the incident when she received a call from the school and then hurried to the site to pick up her 11-year-old daughter.

"This is wild, these kinds of events just don't happen in Finland," Ytterstrom said.

(Reporting by Essi Lehto, writing by Anne Kauranen, Editing by Angus MacSwan)