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Thailand shooting witnesses describe escape from Terminal 21 Korat shopping centre attack

Traumatised witnesses have told the ABC of their deep distress at the mass shooting in Nakhon Ratchasima, 250 kilometres north-east of Bangkok, in Thailand.

At least 20 people are dead and 42 injured after the shooting spree, which mostly took place at the Terminal 21 Korat shopping centre.

Thai security forces rescued eight hostages and killed the gunman after he holed up inside the centre for several hours.

Defence Ministry spokesman Lieutenant General Kongcheep Tantrawanich said Sergeant Major Jakrapanth Thomma, 32, was behind the attack.

The killings began at about 3:00pm (local time) on Saturday when the gunman opened fire in a house before moving to an army camp and then to the mall, posting messages on Facebook as he went.

The ordeal stretched on for hours, but those who escaped the shopping centre say they are deeply thankful to police.

The ABC met supermarket worker, 19-year-old Arm, outside the local Maharaj hospital as he waited for his mother to pick him up.

He said 14 people huddled in a stockroom, including staff and customers.

He remained in the room for eight hours, during which time he heard repeated gunshots.

The gunman also shot a nearby gas pipe which caused the stockroom to fill with gas, making people ill and more desperate to escape.

“When I heard the gun noise I just ran up to the stockroom,” he said.

“We went in as a group. We just wanted to run to safety and we were very scared.”

Arm said with the help of the police, he and some of his colleagues were able to escape through a back entrance to the store.

“First we sent a message [to police] and then we called them for help,” he said.

But he remained worried about colleagues he had not seen since he was inside.

“I’m still concerned and really worried because there are approximately 10 people in there and because one of them was injured from the shooting,” he said.

“I feel really thankful for them (the police). The police came to us and showed us where to go.

“I need to rest, I feel too much.”

‘I never thought a thing like this could happen here’

Security worker Rung, 43, was on duty at the shopping centre when the attacker arrived, and he initially heard gunshots outside.

He rushed to help bring people inside to get away from the attacker, only to then have the gunman enter the mall.

“I heard from the [work] radio that someone was coming and to help the customers,” he said.

“I heard the gunshots and I received a message saying ‘if you can escape, then escape’.

“And then I heard a lot of gunfire.

“I had to make the customers safe first by bringing the customers inside, and then we had further instructions.

“It’s very upsetting. I’ve been working here for three years and I never thought a thing like this could happen here.”

When the ABC spoke to him at about 2:00am local time, he was sitting with a handful of colleagues waiting to hear more news.

“All we can do is check to see if everyone is all right, call and message them to see if they’ve come out,” he said.

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