NICE, France, July 14 (UPI) — A number of people celebrating Bastille Day in southeast France were killed and injured Thursday when a truck crashed into a crowd in the town of Nice, apparently on purpose, authorities said.
A large number of people were present at the Thursday night celebrations, which included fireworks on the promenade. Some witnesses reported hearing gunfire, as well, as the box-type commercial truck ran people over.
Officials and news reports later said more than 70 people were killed and possibly more than 100 were wounded. The death and injury toll was expected to climb Thursday night before officials settled on final numbers.
— Élysée (@Elysee) July 14, 2016
Translation: President Hollande meets with Prime Minister Manuel Valls about the events in #Nice
“We were enjoying the celebrations when we suddenly saw people running everywhere and tables being pushed down by the movement of panic,” teenage witness Daphne Burandé said. “I thought it was a false alert. But then, people were still running.”
ABC News reported that the scene included several police officers standing around the truck, which was riddled with bullet holes.
Estrosi told French media that the driver of the truck fired from a weapon as he drove, and that police officers killed him. He also said “the truck was loaded with arms, loaded with grenades.”
The exact sequence of events were not immediately clear, but witnesses reported that there were two people inside the truck. It is believed they were both killed in a subsequent shootout with police.
France has been on terrorism alert for months, since 130 were killed in an attack in November. French authorities have said for weeks that another terrorist event in the country is likely. Officials were planning to remove that alert at the end of July.
Bastille Day, known locally as La fête nationale, is the French national holiday that commemorates the 1789 Battle of Bastille during the French Revolution.
Another horrific attack, this time in Nice, France. Many dead and injured. When will we learn? It is only getting worse.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump announced on Twitter Thursday that his scheduled announcement of a vice presidential candidate, which was set for Friday, was being postponed due to the event in Nice.
National Security Council spokesman Ned Price said President Barack Obama had been informed of the attack.
“The President has been apprised of the situation in Nice, France, and his national security team will update him, as appropriate,” he said.
Thursday evening, Obama issued a statement on the Nice attack.
“On behalf of the American people, I condemn in the strongest terms what appears to be a horrific terrorist attack in Nice, France, which killed and wounded dozens of innocent civilians” he said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and other loved ones of those killed, and we wish a full recovery for the many wounded.”
“I have directed my team to be in touch with French officials, and we have offered any assistance that they may need to investigate this attack and bring those responsible to justice,” Obama continued. “We stand in solidarity and partnership with France, our oldest ally, as they respond to and recover from this attack.
“On this Bastille Day, we are reminded of the extraordinary resilience and democratic values that have made France an inspiration to the entire world, and we know that the character of the French Republic will endure long after this devastating and tragic loss of life.”
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) July 14, 2016
The White House/Twitter