A large truck plowed into a crowd of people in the southern French of city of Nice on Thursday night, killing at least 80 people and leaving 18 in critical condition as the heavy vehicle mowed over its victims along hundreds of feet, according to police and government officials. The grim death toll jolted the entire country, which has been tenterhooks for months, wondering if and when another deadly assault might occur.
The incident occurred just as thousands of people poured on to the streets on a warm midsummer’s night to celebrate the country’s biggest public holiday of the year, Bastille Day, and to watch the fireworks display — a traditional feature in every city and village across France in the annual celebrations. The truck slammed into the crowds gathered on the city’s Promenade des Anglais, which runs along the Mediterranean seafront, and sent those who could escape screaming in panic as they fled the scene. The driver fired on the crowd before being fatally shot by police, officials said.
Christian Estrosi, the city’s former and current president of the Regional Council of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, said on Twitter that the attackkilled at least 77 people.
The scene in Nice was one of devastation, with the heavy-duty white truck stalled amid the bloodshed on the street, its windows smashed and riddled with bullets, from police gunfire. The Nice region’s president said that the truck was loaded with arms and grenades, according to the AP.
“There was carnage on the road,” eyewitness Wassim Bouhlel told the AP. “Bodies everywhere.”
Damien Allemand, a journalist with Nice Matin, wrote that he had been watching the end of a fireworks display just before the truck appeared and began to slam into people.
“I saw bodies flying like bowling pins along its route. Heard noises, cries that I will never forget,” he wrote.