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At least 84 people have been killed and dozens injured after a truck careered along Nice’s packed waterfront, ploughing into hundreds of people.
French President Francois Hollande has said several children are among the dead after what he described as a monstrous “terrorist” act.
Video footage shows police trying to stop the lorry before it picks up speed, slamming into revellers gathered along the city’s famous waterside Promenade des Anglais for a Bastille Day fireworks display.
The driver zig-zagged along the promenade for some two kilometres (1.3 miles), mowing people down along the way, according to Nice prosecutor Jean-Michel Pretre.
Several officials say he then emerged from the vehicle and started shooting, sending hundreds of panic-stricken men, women and children running in terror.
“We almost died. It was like hallucinating… (the lorry) zig-zagged,” an eyewitness told i-Tele.
“You had no idea where it was going. My wife… a metre away … she was dead.
“The lorry ripped through everything. Poles, trees, we have never seen anything like it in our lives. Some people were hanging on the door trying to stop it.”
Nice-Matin journalist Damien Allemand, who was at the waterside, said the fireworks display had finished and the crowd had got up to leave when they heard a noise and cries.
“A fraction of a second later, an enormous white truck came along at a crazy speed, turning the wheel to mow down the maximum number of people,” he said.
“I saw bodies flying like bowling pins along its route. Heard noises, cries that I will never forget.”
Graphic footage from the scene shows an endless succession of bodies left strewn along the city’s landmark promenade in the lorry’s wake.
Screams and cries can be heard as dazed witnesses lean over the bodies, looking for survivors.
Items of clothing and shoes are scattered across the blood-stained pavement.
French officials say the driver was shot dead by police at the scene, with images showing the windscreen of the 25-tonne lorry riddled with bullet holes.
Several weapons, guns and grenades were found inside the vehicle, Christian Estrosi, president of the region, has confirmed.
There has been no claim of responsibility, however, a police source has identified the attacker as a 31-year-old Franco-Tunisian born in Tunisia.
Though unconfirmed, this tallies with the profile of a man whose identity papers were reportedly discovered inside the vehicle. A police source quoted by news agency AFP said the papers belonged to a resident of Nice.
He pledged to strengthen France’s role in Syria and Iraq and extended the nation’s state of emergency – imposed after November’s attacks in Paris – for a further three months.
At least 18 people remain in a critical condition, with hospitals in the area appealing for blood.
Laurence Marie, who works at Lenval paediatric hospital, has said “many” children are undergoing serious operations there.
Nice’s famous luxury Negresco hotel, meanwhile, has been turned into a makeshift ward, with dozens of frightened and injured victims gathered in the marble lobby.
The hashtag #RecherchesNice has been started for people still looking for loved ones.
This is the worst disaster in the history of Nice as more than 70 people have already lost their lives, killed by the driver as he fired at the crowds ahead of him,” Mr Estrosi said in a statement.
“We are terrified and we want to express our sincere condolences to the families involved.
“Today, we must act. We are currently in touch with the State authorities who are dealing with this crisis.”
The Paris prosecutor’s has office opened an investigation for “murder, attempted murder in an organised group linked to a terrorist enterprise”. The probe is being handled by France’s intelligence agency and judicial police.
The Foreign Office says it is in touch with local authorities in Nice and has advised anyone in the area to follow the instructions of French authorities.
The attack comes days after France breathed a sigh of relief after hosting the Euros 2016 without incident.
The tournament took place under heavy security following the Paris attack that left 130 dead.
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