Four seriously injured during supermarket stabbing attack

·3-min read

Three people have been critically injured and another is in a serious condition following an alleged stabbing rampage at a supermarket on New Zealand's South Island.

Police have taken a man into custody following the incident at a Countdown store in Dunedin, New Zealand Police said in a statement on Monday afternoon.

The incident occurred on Cumberland Street about 2.30pm (NZST). Police said further information would be released shortly.

The four injured people were rushed to Dunedin Hospital, the Otago Daily Times reported.

An ambulance outside the Countdown supermarket in Dunedin on Monday afternoon. Source: NZ On Air
An ambulance outside the Countdown supermarket in Dunedin on Monday afternoon. Source: NZ On Air

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said five people in total were injured, with the alleged attacker understood to be the fifth person. 

Southern District Police Commander Superintendent Paul Basham told the media three of the victims will undergo surgery this afternoon, while the alleged offender suffered mild injuries.

Supt Basham said the alleged offender is currently in Dunedin Hospital, though he said it is expected he will be going to the police station later tonight to be formally charged.

Police praise 'heroic' actions of shoppers

When asked about the actions of those in the Countdown store who tried to detain the offender, Supt Basham praised their courage.

"It is nothing short of heroic,' he said. 

'I have viewed the CCTV footage, which is quite traumatic, and what I can say is that those that intervened, some of who became injured themselves, I think have acted selflessly and with great courage to prevent this man from hurting anybody else and, indeed, I think they did just that."

One witness told the New Zealand Herald they saw several people attempt to wrestle the alleged attacker amid screams inside the store.

"I saw one red hand among the people; a bloody hand, and everybody started running towards the exits," another said.

Video from the scene and shared by the Otago Daily Times shows officers dragging a person, who appears to be male, away from the scene. Witnesses say he was covered in blood.

One witness told Stuff they saw the alleged offender wielding two knives. 

Supermarket staff embrace as police officers take a victim to an ambulance outside a Countdown supermarket in Dunedin, New Zealand, after a man began stabbing people inside. Source: Christine O'Connor/Otago Daily Times via AP
Supermarket staff embrace as police officers take a victim to an ambulance outside a Countdown supermarket in Dunedin, New Zealand, after a man began stabbing people inside. Source: Christine O'Connor/Otago Daily Times via AP

Countdown 'shocked and devastated' over attack

Countdown released a statement shortly after the incident, saying the supermarket was "shocked and devastated" and confirmed members of staff were among the injured.

"Our priority right now is our injured team members and caring for our wider team in the wake of this extremely traumatic event," it said.

"We are deeply upset that customers who tried to help our team members were also injured.  

"Our amazing team comes to work to serve Kiwis every day, and our customers visit our stores knowing that they will be safe. We are heartbroken that this wasn’t the case today."

Police take a suspect into custody near the Countdown supermarket in central Dunedin, New Zealand, following an incident at the supermarket. Source: Otago Daily Times via AP
Police take a suspect into custody near the Countdown supermarket in central Dunedin, New Zealand, following an incident at the supermarket. Source: Otago Daily Times via AP

The store will remain closed on Monday and Tuesday. The Countdown chain is a subsidiary of Australian supermarket giant Woolworths.

Addressing media shortly after the incident, Ms Ardern said it appeared only one person was involved at this stage. 

She also said initial assessment indicates it is not a domestic terror incident however further investigations would clarify that position.

Ms Ardern said the attack was "hugely concerning".

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