Shaken US town turns to prayers

New York: Grief-stricken residents of a US town shaken by the horror of a brutal school shooting sought refuge in the divine on Sunday, flocking to churches in hundreds in the face of tragedy as debate shifted strongly towards gun control laws.

The people of Newtown were still struggling to come to terms with the Friday incident in which 27 people, most of them kids as young as five or seven years old, were shot dead by a young man who started his killing spree at home with his mother.

The Sunday morning prayer services saw a overwhelming rush as the city awaited President Barack Obama, who is set to join its people in their time of grief. Obama is expected to arrive in Newtown to meet the families of victims and to join in the mourning at an evening vigil.

The President who called for "meaningful action" to be taken to prevent such tragedies, which he said America has been witnessing far too often, is already being asked to initiate decisive action.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg lamented lack of action by Obama on stricter gun regulations despite having spoken on this issue several times in the past.

"The president should console the country, but he's the commander in chief as well as the consoler in chief, and he calls for action, but he called for action two years ago," Bloomberg said on on NBC.

"It's time for the president to stand up, I think, and lead and tell this country what we should do," he said.

The mayor of Connecticut's capital city joined in the chorus as he spoke of the need to curb what he called an "incredible appetite" among Americans for guns. Pedro Segarra said Connecticut citizens are "very supportive of demilitarising our community and getting these weapons off the streets."

"A lot of this really requires action by our central government in Washington," he said.

Earlier, Connecticut's chief medical examiner, Dr H Wayne Carver II, said all of the 20 children and 6 adults killed at the elementary school had been struck more than once. He said their wounds were "all over, all over". In the town that is still shedding tears for its lost ones, churches flooded with people who turned to the spiritual in their time of distress.

"How do we rejoice in the face of so much sorrow?" asked Rev Peter Cameron at the Saint Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church in Newtown, as he looked over the worshipers which included the husband of a teacher killed in the shooting, according to a report in the New York Times.

Meanwhile, Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy said the gunman had committed suicide as just as police was entering the building.

"We surmise that it was during the second classroom episode that he heard responders coming and apparently at that, decided to take his own life," Malloy said on ABC television.