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There could be no more perplexing a setting for a mass slaughter than New Zealand, a nation so placid and so isolated from the mass shootings that plague the USA that even police officers rarely carry guns.

Former NSW personal trainer Brenton Harrison Tarrant, 28, appeared in a Christchurch court on Saturday where he was formally charged with one count of murder.

The majority of those killed were at the Masjid Al-Noor, a mosque on Deans Avenue in the central part of Christchurch, with the shooting occurring around 1:45 p.m. local time.

Many of you will have seen that Air New Zealand has cancelled all turboprop flights out of Christchurch tonight and will review the situation in the morning.

She said her government was working with consular officials from countries including "Pakistan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Malaysia", to deal with the aftermath of the attack that killed 49 people.

She pronounced it "one of New Zealand's darkest days". Police also defused explosive devices in a vehicle.

Ardern said she had asked authorities to look into whether there was any activity on social media or elsewhere ahead of the attack that should have alerted them.

U.S. President Donald Trump, who condemned the attack as a "horrible massacre", was praised by the accused gunman in a manifesto posted online as "a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose". He is "sickened" that the shooter said to "subscribe to PewDiePie" in a video before the shooting. "In fact they were now based in Dunedin".

Police also took three men and a woman into custody after the shootings, which shocked people across the nation of five million people.

Speaking in Sydney, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison described the gunman as "an extremist, right-wing, violent terrorist".

Many cities, including London, Paris and NY, have increased their police presence outside of mosques.

"People started to pass by us with blood stains on their clothes, they were very scared and their voices were trembling, some people could not even speak", restaurant manager Prakash Sapkota, who was near the mosques, told Euronews.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the attacks a "brazen act of terror".

Bulgaria's chief prosecutor said his country launched a probe on Friday into a November 2018 visit by the suspect.

He visited Bulgaria from November 9-15 past year claiming he wanted "to visit historical sites and study the history of the Balkan country", Bulgaria's public prosecutor Sotir Tsatsarov said, adding that the inquiry would establish if this was "correct or if he had other objectives".

One person died at the hospital, The New Zealand Herald reported.

One witness told news website Stuff he was praying when he heard shooting - and then saw his wife lying dead on the footpath outside when he fled. "I want each and every member of our city's Muslim community to know that your city supports you, your city is dedicated to protecting you and your city respects and embraces you, just as Toronto embraces people of all backgrounds".

Christchurch is home to almost 400,000 people and is sometimes called the Garden City.