| Policemen carry an injured student out of the Virginia Tech campus. (AP)
Blacksburg, Virginia, April 16 (Agencies): At least 22 people were killed at Virginia Tech university today in the deadliest campus shooting in US history.
Fox News, quoting federal sources, said the toll was 32.
The rampage by what police believe was a lone gunman took place in two separate areas about two hours apart. The suspected gunman was dead and police were trying to determine whether he killed himself or was shot by officers.
Several Indians study in the university, one of the most popular in America. Ajit Pal Singh Raina, president of the Indian Students’ Association in Virginia, said there was no report of any Indian casualty till this evening.
“Today, the university was struck with a tragedy that we consider of monumental proportions,” said Virginia Tech president Charles Steger. “The university is shocked and indeed horrified.”
The name of the gunman was not immediately released, and investigators offered no motive for the attack. It was not clear if the gunman was a student.
The shootings spread panic and confusion on the campus, with witnesses reporting students jumping out classroom windows to escape the gunfire. Students and faculty members carried out some of the wounded, without waiting for ambulances to arrive. The police with flak jackets and assault rifles swarmed the campus.
Madison Van Duyne, a student who was interviewed by telephone on CNN, said: “We are all in lockdown. Most of the students are sitting on the floors away from the windows.”
A gasp could be heard at a campus news conference when the police chief said at least 20 people had been killed. Previously, only one person was thought to have been killed on the campus, which has 25,000 full-time students.
The bloodbath took place at opposite sides of the 2,600-acre campus, beginning at 7.15 am (4.15 pm IST) at West Ambler Johnston, a coed residence hall that houses 895 people, and continuing about two hours later at Norris Hall, an engineering building.
The police said they were still investigating the shooting at the dorm when they got word of gunfire at the engineering building.
After the first shots were fired, students were warned to stay indoors and away from the windows. But some students said they thought the precautions had been lifted by the time the second burst of gunfire was heard, and others bitterly questioned why the gunman was able to strike a second time, two hours after the bloodshed began.
Students said there were multiple bomb threats to the campus last week. Two of the threats were aimed at the science and engineering school.
US News & World Report, which produces well-regarded annual ratings of American universities, ranked Virginia Tech’s College of Engineering 17th for an engineering school.
A White House spokesman said President George W. Bush was horrified by the rampage and offered his prayers to the victims and the people of Virginia. “The President believes that there is a right for people to bear arms, but that all laws must be followed,” spokesperson Dana Perino said.