Mosque attacks: Christchurch taxi drivers offer free rides - 'We should all be together'

8:17 am on 19 March 2019

First person - Christchurch is on high alert following Friday's mass shootings at two mosques, and local taxi drivers are doing their bit to help in times of need.

Christchurch Botanic Gardens wall with hundreds of flowers laid in memory of those lost in the mosque shooting

Photo: RNZ / Simon Rogers

Manjinder Singh stands outside his car at the exit to the international airport terminal.

In front of him, a labrador walks past on a long lead, sniffing beneath a wooden bench, and then at a bed of flowers, seeking out any kind of explosives.

Two police officers stand metres away at the entrance to the airport, wielding long black rifles, right index finger extended alongside the trigger.

This is Christchurch after the horrific terror attacks on Friday, and the city is on high alert.

But Manjinder Sing is focused.

Wearing a shirt and tie, and a large turban atop his head, he locks eyes with mine, reaches for my bags and asks where I need to be.

He is trying to help shuttle people in and out of the city, despite the chaos unfolding around him.

"Everyone is working their best because it's the darkest point in the history of New Zealand," Manjinder Singh said.

"We're all human. I'm Sikh. It's an attack on Muslims. But it doesn't bother that. We should all be together.

"At this time, the police are fighting at one end, the hospital are doing emergency stuff, why can't we offer our services as well?"

Manjinder Singh is one of the many taxi drivers who has been working in the city since the attack.

What's more, he and a large number of drivers are doing so free of charge, just happy to play their part in getting people from A to B.

"Even if someone can't pay I'm happy to take them, free of cost. I can do that."

It is a small way in which Manjinder Singh thinks he can help those affected by the mosque attacks, which killed 50 and injured many more.

A Blue Star taxis colleague, Parvinder Singh, echoed Manjinder Singh's comments.

He said drivers have been doing all they can for the families of the people involved in the attack, and it goes beyond a place in the passenger side of their car.

"Today and this morning we were doing free rides for the people affected by the attack, their families coming from overseas to see them and stuff like that," Parvinder Singh said.

"And all the taxis in the Sikh community are doing free food for all of the victims."

Judging by the way these drivers have acted, you wonder if they have been personally affected.

Behind the kind smiles and the offering of their time and mileage can be personal tragedy, and close calls.

Parvinder Singh was far too near the massacre on Friday, driving on Moorhouse Avenue, which is around the corner from the Al Noor Mosque.

"I'd hear the sound like someone shooting, and then I walked out on the road and saw heaps of police cars going around, and then I heard people screaming."

Muna Kumar, from Fiji, said the attack has hit him and his co workers hard.

Many of the drivers know several people who've died.

Mr Kumar found out that a close friend and co-worker, Ali Amadi, was among the victims.

"He was a very friendly, down to earth guy," Mr Kumar said.

"He was nice to everyone, well liked by most of the taxi drivers. We basically lost a good colleague."

Mr Kumar said it is tough to keep working, but the drivers feel like they're helping.

"Sometimes we don't feel like working but we have to work.

"On Friday I was very tearful. Some of the customers I carried, I went past through there when it was unfolding. It was very difficult."

Another driver, Garry Singh, said he has been torn between going home to his family or helping others get home to theirs.

The drivers have an overwhelming need to help, Manjinder Singh explains why.

"Terrorism doesn't have any religion. The victims are humans, they aren't Muslims, Sikh or anyone [else].

"If anything like this happens in any part of the world, it's bad for humanity."

The Blue Star taxis company did not want to comment for the story, but a staff member said it's proud of what the drivers are doing.

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