At Least 84 Dead After Truck Crashes Into Crowd in Nice, France

Updated: Jul 15, 2016 2:32 AM ET | Originally published: Jul 14, 2016

A large truck plowed into a crowd of people in the southern French of city of Nice on Thursday night, killing at least 84 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.

Terrorist Attack in Nice, France

A woman whose shirt is covered in blood is helped after authorities said a truck slammed into a crowd in Nice, France, on July 14, 2016. French officials said more than 70 people were killed.
A woman whose shirt is covered in blood is helped after authorities said a truck slammed into a crowd in Nice, France, on July 14, 2016. French officials said more than 70 people were killed.Antoine Chauvel
A woman whose shirt is covered in blood is helped after authorities said a truck slammed into a crowd in Nice, France, on July 14, 2016. French officials said more than 70 people were killed.
Bodies lie in the streets of Nice, France, after a terrorist attack that left at least 77 dead and dozens injured on July 14, 2016.
Covered bodies lie on the street after a truck crashed into a crowd along the Promenade des Anglais in Nice, France, during celebrations of Bastille Day on July 14, 2016.
At the site of the terrorist attack, people react along the Promenade des Anglais after a truck crashed into a crowd during celebrations of Bastille Day in Nice, France, July 14, 2016.
First responders tend to victims of a terrorist attack in Nice, France, that left at least 77 dead and dozens injured on July 14, 2016.
First responders in Nice, France, after authorities said at least 77 people were killed and many more injured after a truck slammed into a crowd on July 14, 2016.
Bystanders tend to victims after a terrorist attack in Nice, France, that left 77 dead and many more injured, July 14, 2016
Bodies lie in the streets of Nice, France, after a terrorist attack that left at least 77 dead and dozens injured on July 14, 2016.
Bodies lie in the streets of Nice, France, after a terrorist attack left at least 77 dead and dozens injured on July 14, 2016.
A woman whose shirt is covered in blood is helped after authorities said a truck slammed into a crowd in Nice, France, o
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Antoine Chauvel
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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.

Police officers stand near a van, with its windscreen riddled with bullets, that tore into a crowd leaving a fireworks display in the French Riviera town of Nice on July 14, 2016. At least 70 people were killed in the French city of Nice on Thursday after officials and authorities said a truck slammed into a crowd celebrating Bastille Day. Photographs from the immediate aftermath showed several dead bodies on a main street in the city, which lies on the coast of the Mediterranean, as well as a truck that had its windshield riddled with bullet holes. Bodies that had already been attended to were wrapped in gold sheets.
Police officers stand near a van, with its windscreen riddled with bullets, that tore into a crowd leaving a fireworks display in the French Riviera town of Nice on July 14, 2016Valery Hache—AFP/Getty Images
Police officers stand near a van, with its windscreen riddled with bullets, that tore into a crowd leaving a fireworks display in the French Riviera town of Nice on July 14, 2016. At least 70 people were killed in the French city of Nice on Thursday after officials and authorities said a truck slammed into a crowd celebrating Bastille Day. Photographs from the immediate aftermath showed several dead bodies on a main street in the city, which lies on the coast of the Mediterranean, as well as a truck that had its windshield riddled with bullet holes. Bodies that had already been attended to were wrapped in gold sheets.
Bodies are seen on the ground on July 15, 2016, after at least 70 people were killed in Nice, France, when a truck ran into a crowd celebrating Bastille Day.
People cross the street with their hands on their heads as a French soldier secures the area in Nice, France, on July 15, 2016, after at least 60 people were killed along the Promenade des Anglais when a truck ran into a crowd celebrating Bastille Day.
French soldiers advance on the street after at least 70 people were killed in Nice, France, when a truck ran into a crowd celebrating the Bastille Day national holiday on July 14, 2016.
Police officers respond to reports of a truck slamming into a crowd in Nice, France, on July 14, 2016.
A dead body lies on the ground on July 15, 2016, after authorities said a van drove into a crowd watching a fireworks display in the French Riviera town of Nice.
A body is seen on the ground on July 15, 2016, after at least 70 people were killed in Nice, France, when a truck ran into a crowd celebrating Bastille Day.
Police officers stand near a van, with its windscreen riddled with bullets, that tore into a crowd leaving a fireworks d
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Valery Hache—AFP/Getty Images
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Alain Boudail, owner of Le Cocodile Restaurant in Promenade Des Anglais, told TIME the attack was "carnage."

" I could hear screams, cries ­and it looked like bowling, people were being thrown in the air ­two or three meters high," he said. "In front of my restaurant there were at least 10 people laying on the street, dead."

He said High Club, a nightclub next door, had been turned into a field hospital.

For France, the attack on Thursday night is likely to be deeply distressing — and to raise the question about how the country can possible avoid further attacks, given the extraordinary security measures already in place. What is more, Thursday's mass deaths, if terrorism, will be the third terror attack in France in just 18 months; in January 2015 ISIS and al-Qaeda gunmen killed 17 people at the Charlie Hebdo satiric publication and a kosher supermarket, both in Paris. Then came the Paris attacks — a devastating blow, from which the country had only just begun to shake off the anxiety and grief.

By midnight, no group had claimed responsibility for the chaos. But regional police and local officials in the South of France quickly declared it a terrorist attack. They appealed for people to remain calm and went on television to tell people to stay indoors — clearly fearing that there might be multiple attacks on the streets, as there were in last November's Paris attacks, when ISIS gunmen-suicide bombers opened fire on cafés and a music hall, killed 130 people. On Twitter, the regional mayor Christian Estrosi told Nice residents, "Stay for the moment in your homes. More info to come."

France has been under a state of emergency since then, and thousands of armed soldiers patrol department stores, stations, and other public places. Security was hugely ramped up during the FIFA European Football Championships, which French officials feared could be a target of attack. Indeed, police in Nice evacuated a shopping center in Nice late last month, after a threat that a bomb would explode during the England-Iceland match being played in that city. There was a palpable sense of relief among the French after the championship's final game last Sunday, that the monthlong tournament ended without an attack.

With reporting from Olivier Laurent

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