HALIFAX -- Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil says it's difficult to imagine a murderous spree like the one started by Gabriel Wortman happening anywhere, but especially in a small rural community in Nova Scotia.

"It's the disbelief of it all," said McNeil, who comes from a small community in the Annapolis Valley, one similar in many ways to Portapique, N.S.

"You know your neighbours, you're interacting with them, you're seeing them, whether it's at church or strawberry suppers. You know their kids you know them by name, they know you, they know who's connected," McNeil said.

"It's unbelievable that anything horrific like this could happen anywhere really, but especially in one of our quaint picturesque communities where individuals are just working hard to make a living for themselves, their families, and build a community."

Portapique is where Wortman's rampage started on Saturday night. By the time it ended in Enfield, N.S. on Sunday at noon, he had killed 22 people before being shot and killed by police.

"The spread of this violence is hard to fathom," McNeil said.

The premier says he hasn't spoke to the family members of the victims yet, but is preparing to do that soon, as he compiles a list of names and contact information.

"I wanted to give those families an opportunity to get over the shock of what's happened, but I will be reaching out to them," McNeil said.

Like many, McNeil wonders why the RCMP didn't use the province's emergency alert system, but is taking a conciliatory tone and waiting for answers.

"I would say, in the benefit of hindsight, it should have been communicated more widely with a number of our agencies but let's let that unfold," McNeil said. "My main focus right now is to support those families."