Updated | [WATCH] At least 17 dead in Florida high school shooting

The sixth school shooting of the year has left at least 17 dead and many more injured • FBI had been warned of sinister online comment shooter made in 2017

Parents wait for news outside of the high school (photo: The Guardian)
Parents wait for news outside of the high school (photo: The Guardian)

President Donald Trump has addressed the shooting at a high school capmus in Parkland, Florida, urging children across the country to seek help if they felt lost, alone or scared.

"I want to speak now directly to America's children, especially those who feel lost alone confused or even scared. I want you to know that you are never alone, and you never will be," Trump said.

"You have people who care about you, who love you and who will do anything at all to protect you. If you need help, turn to a teacher, a family member, a local police officer or a faith leader. Answer hate with love. Answer cruelty with kindness."

It has also emerged that the Federal Bureau of Investigation had been warned last year about a sinister online comment made by the 19-year-old shooter, Nikolas Cruz, but it had been unable to locate the man.

One student snapchatted the whole south Florida school shooting (warning this is graphic content)

Meanwhile, superintendent of Broward County schools Robert Runcie has called for action on gun laws, telling reporters, "Now is the time for this country to have a real conversation on sensible gun control laws in this country."

At least 17 people were killed after a 19-year-old man opened fire at the school campus, police have said.

Cruz, a former student at the school who had been expelled for unspecified disciplinary reasons was named as the suspect.

Students were evacuated in small groups (Photo:BBC)
Students were evacuated in small groups (Photo:BBC)

In the deadliest school shooting since 26 people were killed at Connecticut school Sandy Hook in 2012,

Students were forced to hide as police swooped in on the building.

It is the sixth school shooting in 2018 that has either wounded or killed students.

Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel told reporters Cruz killed three people outside the school, before entering the building and killing another 12.

Two people later died after being taken to hospital.

"It's catastrophic. There really are no words," Sheriff Israel tweeted later.

Three people remain in critical condition and three others are in stable condition, health officials said.

The victims are still being identified, Sheriff Israel said a football coach was among the dead but no names have been released.

According to reports in the Miami Herald, he fell to the ground as a female student he was shielding screamed into her cellphone on a call with her mother. It was not immediately clear if the coach had survived the shooting.

The gunman who was armed with smoke grenades, a semi-automatic AR-15 assault rifle, and wearing a gas mask, moved from move to move opening fire indiscriminately. Students and teachers huddled together in classrooms, closets and bathrooms.

Students were reunited with parents in Coral Springs (photo:BBC)
Students were reunited with parents in Coral Springs (photo:BBC)

Children used their cellphones to text parents and livestream images, some of the videos featuring chaos and screaming. One girl told a local television news crew that she saw a teacher shot dead in front of her as he tried to lock the classroom door. It remained open as the killer passed on by in the hallway.

One 15-year-old student, seeing the gunman enter his classroom, decided to lie on the floor pretending to be dead, according to 23-year-old Sivan Odiz, a local resident and family friend who spoke to the boy after the massacre.

“But when he got up, there were two people killed,” Odiz told the Guardian as she waited outside the school for news on other friends she had not heard from.

Sarah Crescitelli, 15, cowered in the school’s drama building as she heard more shots ring out. She tried to reassure her classmates that all would be OK and sent her mother a text message: “If I don’t make it I love you and I appreciated everything you did for me.”

Witnesses said that the suspect pulled a fire alarm before the violence erupted.

It was the second fire alarm of the day, students said. The first had been a planned drill but the second siren alerted some that something was not right.

Police and SWAT team members swarmed the campus and began clearing students from the school in Parkland, about an hour north of Miami, as parents and ambulances converged on the scene.

One student, Bailey Vosberg, said: "I heard what sounded like fireworks and I looked at my friend and he asked me if I heard that."

"Immediately, I knew. I didn't say anything to him, I just hopped over the fence and I went straight to the road that our school is located on - and as I got there there was just Swat cars and police units, police vehicles just flying by, helicopters over the top of us."

People's reactions 

On Wednesday, the local public school district tweeted that "students and staff heard what sounded like gunfire" just before the end of the day at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Florida Senator Marco Rubio tweeted that the shooting was "designed & executed to maximize loss of life".

"You should know the facts of that incident before you run out and prescribe some law that you claim could have prevented it," he told Fox News.

Florida Governor Rick Scott said the shooting was "pure evil", but also refused to be drawn into a discussion about gun control.

"There's a time to continue to have these conversations about how through law enforcement... we make sure people are safe," he said.

President Donald Trump also tweeted his condolences.

Congressman Ted Deutch, the district's representative, tweeted: "I'm sick about this news from home. Just spoke with the sheriff. This is devastating."