The party turned to panic Thursday and people scattered after the large truck drove onto a sidewalk and into the crowd, leaving a trail of bodies over more than 100 metres. Many more people were wounded and the death toll is expected to rise.
“There was carnage on the road,” Nice native Wassim Bouhlel told the Associated Press. “Bodies everywhere.”
The truck was loaded with weapons and hand grenades, said Christian Estrosi, president of the region. The truck driver also shot into the crowd before an exchange of gunfire with police, according to eyewitness reports.
“The driver fired on the crowd, according to the police who killed him,” Estrosi told BFM TV.
The driver of the truck was shot and killed by police; pictures from the scene show the front of the truck riddled with bullet holes. There is no information yet on the driver’s identity or motive for the attack.
WARNING: Graphic images
Estrosi said the driver acted in “completely premeditated behaviour.”
Anti-terrorism investigators are now on the case, Reuters reports.
Hollande called the attack a “monstrosity.”
“France is afflicted, but she is strong, and she will be soon even stronger.”
Hollande says he will call a defence council meeting Friday that brings together defence, interior and other key ministers, before heading to Nice.
Just hours after announcing in the traditional Bastille Day interview that the state of emergency, in place since November attacks that killed 130 in Paris, was to be removed, Hollande said it must be extended for three months. That decision will need parliamentary approval.
In the hours after the attack there were no reports of Canadians hurt or killed, and Global Affairs is “closely monitoring” the situation.
“The Emergency Watch and Response Centre in Ottawa and Canadian offices in Paris stand ready to provide consular assistance to Canadian citizens and are endeavouring to determine if Canadian citizens have been affected,” the agency said in an email to Global News.
The attack happened just before midnight local time on the famous Promenade des Anglais, just as a fireworks display ended.
journalist Damien Allemand was in the area when the attack began. He wrote in an online post that “an enormous white truck came along at a crazy speed, turning the wheel to mow down the maximum number of people.”
“I saw bodies flying like bowling pins along its route. Heard noises, cries that I will never forget.”
Social media images from the scene show multiple bodies on the ground; videos showed crowds of people running. Police have asked people in the area to stay in their homes, calling it an ongoing police operation.
The Gendarmerie, tweeting in French English and Italian, also warned against people spreading rumours and sharing “shocking photos or videos” emerging from the scene of the horrific crash.
People across Nice took to social media to open their doors to people fleeing the scene and offer their homes as safe havens.
Using the hashtag #PortesOuvertes, it was reminiscent of the aftermath of last November’s terrorist attacks in Paris.
Facebook had also reportedly activated its safety check feature, allowing users to notify friends, family and followers that they are safe.
Raffelina Sirianni, a Kamloops resident on vacation in the south of France, spoke with Global News while holed up in an apartment in the area after the attack.
“It’s absolutely devestating — it’s terrifying,” Sirianni.
She says she had been taking part in Bastille Day celebrations during the day, but went to Momaco for the evening. When she returned, she found the area of the attack to be deserted, while it’s usually filled with people.
“We immediately thought something was quite strange, because it was absolutely empty.”
She went to their hotel where they learned of the attack which occurred just down the road.
“We can see it from our balcony.”
She said there were families and children at the festive celebrations, the promenade “brimming with activity.” She said the driver would have gone through barricades blocking off the roadway for the festivities.
“All we really know is we’ve been told to stay inside.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sent a tweet of condolence following the attack, saying “Canadians are shocked” by the violence.
In a statement U.S. President Barack Obama condemned what he called “a horrific terrorist attack.”
Pictures of a transport truck involved in the crash have been posted online, showing police nearby with guns drawn.
Belgium’s prime minister said he’s convening a meeting of the National Security Council Friday in the wake of the Nice attack, to make sure adequate security measures are in place for Belgium’s national holiday next week.
“We have already taken a certain number of steps in connection with preparations for July 21, as you can imagine, and our security services are permanently evaluating the measures that are necessary,” Charles Michel, the Belgian prime minister, said in a radio interview. “It’s certain that our security services are going to include information resulting from this act committed last night in Nice in their analyses.”
With files from the Associated Press, Nick Logan and Peder Myhr. More to come.