NICE (AFP) – Up to 30 people were on Friday feared dead and around 100 injured in an “attack” in the French Riviera resort of Nice after a truck ploughed into a crowd of people leaving a Bastille Day firework display, city officials said.
Witnesses described hearing gunfire, although this was not immediately confirmed by the authorities with images on social media showed casualties lying in the street, some being tended by paramedics.
The incident comes as France remains badly shaken by November 2015 attacks which killed 130 people at the Bataclan concert hall in Paris and nightspots across the city.
Describing it as a “major criminal attack”, Sebastien Humbert, the sub-prefect of the Alpes-Maritimes region, told BFMTV the driver had left “several dozen, perhaps around 30 people dead” and “around a hundred injured”.
Police and ambulances went to the scene and authorities from the local Alpes-Maritimes prefecture urged residents to stay indoors.
An AFP reporter described seeing a white truck driving at high speed onto the famed Promenade des Anglais as people were leaving after the annual Bastille Day celebration display.
“We saw people hit and bits of debris flying around,” he said.
Terrified pedestrians screamed as they fled the area. “It was absolute chaos,” he added.
The incident came just hours after France announced that a state of emergency declared after last November’s attacks would come to an end later this month.
Speaking on the national July 14 holiday, President Francois Hollande said the decree after the November 13 attacks would not be renewed beyond July 26, because a law bolstering security in France was adopted in May.
Nice city mayor Christian Estrosi urged residents to stay in doors.
“The driver of a van appears to have killed dozens. Stay in your homes for now. More info to follow,” Estrosi wrote on Twitter.
Local authorities from the Alpes-Maritimes prefecture also urged people to remain indoors following what appeared to be a deliberate attack.