Scores Dead After Truck Plows Into Bastille Day Crowd In Nice, France
A truck drove into a crowd celebrating Bastille Day in Nice, France, killing dozens of people on Thursday evening. The head of the regional government, former Nice Mayor Christian Estrosi, says 80 people were killed and 50 injured.
NPR's Eleanor Beardsley reports the truck started about a mile away and plowed into a crowd of people watching fireworks on the French national holiday and that the identity of the driver is still unknown. French President Francois Hollande went to the Interior Ministry's crisis center after hearing of the attack, and the French anti-terrorism prosecutor in Paris has opened a terrorism case.
"The driver was shot. There may have a second person in the truck; we don't know yet.
"Witnesses describe hundreds of people running in every direction, pounding on doors, asking to be let in. Another witness [reports] layers of bodies piled on each other and people taking tablecloths from restaurants to lay over them."
Estrosi told local television station BFM TV the truck had guns and grenades inside. He posted a tweet calling on the people of Nice to stand together in solidarity.
PR's Dina Temple-Raston reports that no one has taken responsibility for the attack, but that domestic and international officials had been warning about an attack on a so-called soft target like this one for months and that officials at a spring meeting of law enforcement authorities had expressed concern about a summertime attack in France.
The Associated Press quoted an eyewitness, Wassim Bouhlel, as saying there were "bodies everywhere" after the crash. He told the wire service that after the truck entered the crowd, he saw the driver emerge from the vehicle with a gun, shooting at people.
The wire service reported that a journalist for the local newspaper Nice Matin, Damien Allemand, was at the scene, where fireworks had just finished when the truck rammed through the crowd as people were beginning to leave.
"An enormous white truck came along at a crazy speed, turning the wheel to mow down the maximum number of people," he wrote online according to the AP. "I saw bodies flying like bowling pins along its route. Heard noises, cries I will never forget."
Eric Drattell, an American citizen on vacation in France who witnessed the attack, told NPR he heard gunshots shortly after 10:30 p.m. and saw people diving off the raised promenade onto the beach about 12 feet below. Drattell and his wife hid in a bathroom stall with about a dozen other people before being evacuated by police to a nearby hotel.
"I saw a stroller that had been crushed," he told NPR. "There were bodies — bodies and blood everywhere. I'm in complete shock. It's unbelievable carnage."
Reuters quoted BFM TV as saying the local government in Nice was asking people to stay inside following the incident.
Multiple live videos streaming online from Nice shortly after 10:30 p.m. local time show people running in panic down the city's streets.
President Obama has issued a statement, condemning "what appears to be a horrific terrorist attack in Nice, France, which killed and wounded dozens of innocent civilians."