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Florida school shooting: Families yet to learn news of victims as 17 confirmed dead

A gunman opened fire at a Florida high school on Wednesday afternoon, injuring multiple people and sending hundreds of students fleeing into streets.

At least 17 people have died after a shooter opened fire with a semi-automatic rifle at a high school in Florida.

The shooting took place at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, a city in the southern part of the state between Boca Raton and Fort Lauderdale, in Broward County.

The suspect was identified as former student Nikolas Cruz, 19, who was expelled from the high school for "disciplinary reasons", Sheriff Scott Israel said.

The gunman is believed to have used an AR-15 rifle and killed 12 people inside the school, two just outside, one in the street and two died in hospital.

Sheriff Israel said 12 of the 17 victims have been identified, but their identities will not be released yet.

This latest incident is one of the deadliest mass shootings in modern US history and the 18th school shooting in the US this year.

Cruz was arrested without incident in the nearby town of Coral Springs after the Valentine's Day rampage and taken to hospital with minor injuries, the sheriff said.

Broward County Sheriff update on Florida high school shooting.
Broward County Sheriff update on Florida high school shooting.

People are brought out of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School after a shooting at the Florida school.
People are brought out of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School after a shooting at the Florida school.
Getty Images

School shooting in Florida.
School shooting in Florida.
MSNBC

Medical personnel tend to a victim following a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.
Medical personnel tend to a victim following a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.
AAP

"We have already begun to dissect his websites and things on social media that he was on and some of the things ... are very, very disturbing," Sheriff Israel said.

"He had countless magazines, multiple magazines, and at this point, we believe he had one AR-15 rifle."

"This is a terrible day for Parkland," Sheriff Israel said, speaking of the city of about 30,000 people, located 80 kilometres north of Miami.

"My very own triplets went to that school."

A teacher at the school told the Miami Herald Cruz had been identified previously as a potential threat to his classmates.

Dramatic footage inside classrooms of Florida high school shooting
Dramatic footage inside classrooms of Florida high school shooting

"We were told last year that he wasn't allowed on campus with a backpack on him," math teacher Jim Gard said. "There were problems with him last year threatening students, and I guess he was asked to leave campus."

Following the shooting, hospitals across Broward County received 17 patients with three remaining in critical condition.

Broward County Public Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie was horrified following the shooting.

"Just a horrible day for us," Supt Runcie said, adding the incident appeared to be over.

"This is a very tragic situation for everybody involved," Parkland Mayor Christine Hunschofsky told CNN, adding she had spoken to a number of students.

"They were very scared. And almost in shock when they came out."

Asked about security, the mayor said a police officer is always stationed at the school and there was a "single point of entry".

US mass shootings in numbers.
US mass shootings in numbers.

Immediately after the shooting live television showed dozens of students running and walking away from the school, weaving their way between large numbers of emergency vehicles including police cars, ambulances and fire trucks.

Police officers in helmets, bulletproof vests and armed with automatic weapons were seen stationed at several points around the school.

Terrified students were hiding in closets and under desks as they texted for help.

Police from neighbouring Coral Springs advised teachers and students in the building to "remain barricaded inside until police reach you".

Students released from a lockdown embrace following following a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018. (John McCall/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP)
Students are released from a lockdown outside of Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland after an active shooter opened fire.
AAP

Students released from a lockdown are overcome with emotion following following a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.
Students released from a lockdown are overcome with emotion following following a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.
AAP

'Everyone started running'

Student Jeiella Dodoo told CBS News she and her schoolmates had evacuated their classroom calmly after hearing what they thought had been a routine fire alarm. 

"The alarm went off so we had to evacuate from our classes," she said. 

"Then we heard gunshots. I heard about six gunshots.

"And then some people started running and then everyone started running because we were like, 'If it's real, then just run.'"

A math teacher at the school told CBS that he was hiding with six of his students.

"We are fine. We are waiting," he said.

Caesar Figueroa told CNN his daughter was hiding in a closet and texting her family.

"She's trapped with her 10 friends. She said she heard gunshots. A window blew and everybody is screaming and running, and she said she ran in the closet and she's still there," Mr Figueroa said.

No child should 'feel unsafe'

US President Donald Trump tweeted his "prayers and condolences" to the victims.

"My prayers and condolences to the families of the victims of the terrible Florida shooting," President Donald Trump said on Twitter.

"No child, teacher or anyone else should ever feel unsafe in an American school."

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, part of the Broward County public school district, has nearly 3,000 students, according to 2014 figures.

The shooting, one of several since the start of the year, will once again throw the spotlight on America's epidemic of gun violence and the ready accessibility of weapons, with 33,000 gun-related deaths annually.

Since January 2013, "there have been at least 283 school shootings across the country -- which averages out to one school shooting a week," according to Everytown for Gun Safety, a non-profit group that advocates for gun control.

Since the 2012 massacre at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, where 20 children and six adults were shot dead, warning procedures and emergency drills have multiplied at US schools.

The goal is to teach school children how to react to a shooter who opens fire at random.

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