As many as 84 people were killed and about 100 injured when a truck ploughed through a Bastille Day crowd in the city of Nice.
Police shot and killed the male driver who is said to have shot at people as he cut a swathe through revellers along the Promenade des Anglais last night. A scene of death and destruction unfolded along a two-kilometre stretch of the foreshore as emergency services and police moved in.
There was confusion during the attack, which occurred in the late evening as fireworks were being set off randomly. Many in the crowd thought the gunfire was just more fireworks until screams pierced the air and people started fleeing blindly.
“People are running. It’s panic. He rode up on to the Prom[enade des Anglais] and piled into the crowd … There are people covered in blood. There must be many injured,” reported Damien Allemand, a journalist for the Nice-Matin daily, who was at the scene.
Writing for medium.com, an online publisher that promotes social journalism, he said:
From far off, a noise. Screams.
“My first thought: a clever joker wanted to set off his own little fireworks and lost control… But no. A fraction of a second later, a huge white truck flew by at a crazy speed, driving over people, twisting the wheel to cut down the maximum number of people. This truck of death passed a few meters away from me and I didn’t realize it. I saw bodies fly like bowling pins along its path. Heard noises, screaming that I will never forget.
“… I bumped into Raymond, around 50, in tears, who gasped, “There are dead bodies everywhere.” He was right.”
Damien’s post, translated by vox.com, continued:
“Right behind him, bodies every 5 meters, lifeless, limbs… blood. Whimpering. The beach attendants were the first on the scene. They brought water for the wounded and towels that they spread over those for whom there was no hope. Just then, I lost my nerve. I would have loved to help, to be of service… to do anything. But I didn’t. Frozen again.”
Visual media showed Images of bodies strewn across the road and a damaged truck riddled with bullets.
Overnight authorities identified the driver, a 31-year-old Nice resident of Tunisian descent who had a police record but no known ties to any terrorist groups.
Authorities have not formally declared it a terror attack but France’s anti-terrorism agency has taken over the investigation and the government has announced a three-month extension to the state of emergency that has been in place since a wave of terror attacks hit Paris last November. – Ariana Norton and Samantha Besgrove
Screengrab from France 24 English’s Youtube channel