'We thought it was a joke': Strasbourg stunned by attack

STRASBOURG, France, Dec 12 (Reuters) - Armed police patrolled the streets and manned checkpoints; shops and restaurants stayed shuttered, and residents laid tributes as Strasbourg recoiled on Wednesday from the deadly shooting at a Christmas market.

Blood stains spattered the Rue Des Grandes Arcades, a shopping street where some of the victims were shot. In Place Kleber, at the center of the French city, well-wishers left flowers at the foot of a Christmas tree, in memory of the two people killed.

"It’s destroyed the Christmas market. Nobody will want to come here," said Bui, a 46-year-old waiter at the Casa Toscana restaurant.

SEE ALSO: At least two dead, 11 wounded in French Christmas market shooting

"We thought it was firecrackers or a joke to begin with, what with the yellow vest protests at the moment," he said, referring to nationwide demonstrations against high living costs. "It took about five minutes for people to realize what was going on."

The attack risks dealing a devastating blow to the city's retail and tourism industries, just as the month-long yellow vest unrest may have blunted the French economy.

See photos from the scene: 

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Deadly shooting at French Christmas market
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Deadly shooting at French Christmas market
In this image made from video, emergency services arrive on the scene of a Christmas market in Strasbourg, France, Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2018. A French regional official says that a shooting in Strasbourg has left at least one dead and several wounded in the city center near a world-famous Christmas market. The prefect of France's Bas-Rhin region says the gunman, who is still at large, has been identified. Authorities haven't given a motive for the shooting. (AP Photo)
Tis picture taken with a mobile phone shows rescuers treating an injured person in the streets of Strasbourg, eastern France, after a shooting breakout, on December 11, 2018. - Two persons has been killed and 11 people injured in a shooting today near a Christmas market in the eastern French city of Strasbourg, police said, adding that the suspected gunman was on the run. (Photo by François D'ASTIER / AFP) (Photo credit should read FRANCOIS D'ASTIER/AFP/Getty Images)
Police, firefighters and emergency services intervene on Place Gutenberg after a shooting on December 11, 2018 in Strasbourg, eastern France. - At least two people have been killed and 11 critically wounded in a shooting in the French city of Strasbourg, police said, updating the number of victims. (Photo by Patrick HERTZOG / AFP) (Photo credit should read PATRICK HERTZOG/AFP/Getty Images)
In this image made from video provided by CMM, people lay on the ground after a shooting at a Christmas market in Strasbourg, France, Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2018. A French regional official says that a shooting in Strasbourg has left at least one dead and several wounded in the city center near a world-famous Christmas market. The prefect of France's Bas-Rhin region says the gunman, who is still at large, has been identified. Authorities haven't given a motive for the shooting. (CMM via AP)
Police secure a street and the surrounding area after a shooting in Strasbourg, France, December 11, 2018. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler
Ambulance is seen at the scene of shooting in Strasbourg, France, December 11, 2018. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler
Police officer secures a street and the surrounding area after a shooting in Strasbourg, France, December 11, 2018. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler
Police secure a street and the surrounding area after a shooting in Strasbourg, France, December 11, 2018. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler
Police secure a street and the surrounding area after a shooting in Strasbourg, France, December 11, 2018. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler
Police officers secure a street and the surrounding area after a shooting in Strasbourg, France, December 11, 2018. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler
Police secure a street and the surrounding area after a shooting in Strasbourg, France, December 11, 2018. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler
Soldiers secure area where a suspect is sought after a shooting in Strasbourg, France, December 11, 2018. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler
Police officer secures a street and the surrounding area after a shooting in Strasbourg, France, December 11, 2018. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler
Police officer secures a street and the surrounding area after a shooting in Strasbourg, France, December 11, 2018. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler
Police secure a street and the surrounding area after a shooting in Strasbourg, France, December 11, 2018. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler
Rescue teams work at the scene of shooting in Strasbourg, France, December 11, 2018. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler
Police, firefighters and emergency services intervene on Place Gutenberg, near the Strasbourg Cathedral (in the background) after a shooting on December 11, 2018 in Strasbourg, eastern France. - At least two people have been killed and 11 critically wounded in a shooting in the French city of Strasbourg, police said, updating the number of victims. (Photo by Patrick HERTZOG / AFP) (Photo credit should read PATRICK HERTZOG/AFP/Getty Images)
A military stands in the streets of Strasbourg, eastern France, after a shooting breakout, on December 11, 2018. - Two persons has been killed and 11 people injured in a shooting today near a Christmas market in the eastern French city of Strasbourg, police said, adding that the suspected gunman was on the run. (Photo by Frederick FLORIN / AFP) (Photo credit should read FREDERICK FLORIN/AFP/Getty Images)
Policemen walk in the streets of Strasbourg, eastern France, after a shooting breakout, on December 11, 2018. - At least two people have been killed and 11 critically wounded in a shooting in the French city of Strasbourg, police said, updating the number of victims. (Photo by Frederick FLORIN / AFP) (Photo credit should read FREDERICK FLORIN/AFP/Getty Images)
Policemen speak with a military in the streets of Strasbourg, eastern France, after a shooting breakout, on December 11, 2018. - At least two people have been killed and 11 critically wounded in a shooting in the French city of Strasbourg, police said, updating the number of victims. (Photo by Frederick FLORIN / AFP) (Photo credit should read FREDERICK FLORIN/AFP/Getty Images)
Police, firefighters and emergency services intervene on Place Gutenberg after a shooting on December 11, 2018 in Strasbourg, eastern France. - At least two people have been killed and 11 critically wounded in a shooting in the French city of Strasbourg, police said, updating the number of victims. (Photo by Patrick HERTZOG / AFP) (Photo credit should read PATRICK HERTZOG/AFP/Getty Images)
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The Saint Sepulcre restaurant, close to where the first shots were fired, was closed by manager Claude Fricker on Wednesday as two of her chefs who helped the wounded recovered from the trauma.

"We know that we’re not safe anywhere despite all the security measures," said a local pensioner who gave his name as Ralph. "It’s impossible to counter the actions of a madman, we should not give into panic or to paranoia."

First signs, though, were that visitors felt differently. At the Hotel Kleber on the main square, staff handled a flood of cancellations ahead of what should be one of the busiest shopping weekends before Christmas.

"We’re getting a lot of calls and emails for cancellations. It’s going to hit us hard, said receptionist Elena Bonal.

Mayor Roland Ries told reporters the city would not be cowed by what he said was indisputably an act of terror.

"Life must resume tomorrow. The Christmas market will reopen tomorrow and we will restart our lives on the basis of our values. We won’t let the act of a madman knock us down." (Editing by Richard Lough and Robin Pomeroy)

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