A man who escaped the Al Noor mosque through a window as a gunman opened fire on his friends and fellow worshippers has spoken of the terror he felt - and his despair at the mass killing happening in the city he loves.

Nour Tavis was in the front row of the mosque with his friend when the shooting started.

At first they thought the noise was a speaker crackling.

It became louder and more frequent and they realised it was something much more sinister.

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"Then we heard screaming… everyone panicked," Tavis told the Herald.

"There was shooting and shooting and shooting… people were running and all of a sudden you saw them fall.

"I just thought 'how am I going to get out of here'."

Tavis saw someone smash a window and jump out.

"It was the only way to escape," he said.

"I followed… it was the safest place to get out."

His friend came after him - but only after he caught a glimpse of the gunman.

Tavis said his friend noticed the gunman shooting at people who fled "like they were targets".

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His friend stayed still until the gunman stopped to reload his firearm - then he too bolted out the window.

As Tavis and others ran for cover the shooting carried on inside the mosque.

He scaled a 1.5m fence and banged on a neighbour's door - desperately hoping someone would answer and take him into safety.

They did.

"We got in there and I could see another man had been shot in the side, I could see blood coming out," he recalled.

Tavis then tried to go back to the mosque and help the injured.

"There were people bleeding to death… it was terrible."

Another of Tavis'' friend lost his wife in the attack.

"When she heard the noise she wanted to go and make sure her husband was safe," he said.

"She got the bullet, her husband got away.

"She was gone, she was no more."

Tavis said the woman was "a star" and she worked hard to serve her community.

"It's really sad, she was a nice lady and I will never forget her."

Tavis, who moved from Morrocco to New Zealand 15 years ago, could not believe such a vile incident could happen in Christchurch.

"This sort of thing happens in Europe, America - not in New Zealand," he said.

"I could never think this would happen here… it's devastating."

His family overseas have been calling him non stop since the attack.

Many have seen a video posted by the gunman online, filmed live as he went into the mosque and started shooting.

"They have seen the horrible scenes… I have not watched it," Tavis said, shaking his head.

"It keeps coming up on Facebook, they need to stop it."

Tavis was recovering at home with his two young daughters tonight and said he was still in shock.

"I am a lucky one, I am so lucky," he said.

"I am safe."

Tavis said the gunman was "not human".

"I don't know why people do this," he said.

"It's terrible, terrible, terrible.

"I came here from Morocco, built my home here, I have everything I ever wanted here.

"I have always felt safe - but this… Now I have to be careful.

"Hopefully no one else targets me just because of my skin colour, my hair, my religion… it's a very tough situation.