Christian Estrosi, the former mayor of Nice, France, said dozens were killed after a truck drove through a group of pedestrians
At least 84 people have been killed and 120 injured in Nice, France, after a truck drove into a crowd celebrating Bastille Day in the city on Thursday night, multiple reports confirm.
French President Fran ois Hollande said at a press conference on Thursday: “Horror again here in France. 77 victims including several children and around 20 wounded are in intensive care. This is an act of which a terrorist attack cannot be ignored and this is an absolute horror.” French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve later confirmed that the death toll had risen to 84, with 18 in critical condition.
Hollande also confirmed that the driver has been shot, adding: “France as a whole is under the threat of Islamist terrorism and so in the circumstances, we have to demonstrate absolute vigilant and show determination that is unfailing.”
Christian Estrosi, the regional mayor of Nice and head of the regional council of Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur, earlier confirmed the deaths of “dozens” on Twitter.
Local newspaper Nice-Matin said that a vehicle ran into the crowd while they watched a fireworks display on the Promenade des Anglais, according to NBC News. Thousands were assembled at the city’s center for a concert by Christian Auguin, director of the Washington National Opera, followed by the fireworks display.
The truck barreled in over 2 kilometers zigzagging course (a mile and a half), according to the latest report on France 2. There are reportedly dozens of bodies covered in plastic sheets along the Promenade which has been closed off.
“It sounded like an attack in Beirut, not fireworks,” eyewitness Lucy Nesbitt-Comaskey told Sky News. “All of a sudden people were screaming in the street and running and we were just sitting there, everybody came into our restaurant. Owners of the restaurant were screaming ‘get in get in.’ Everybody was screaming, a lady she collapsed on the floor, she fainted, we were in shock.”
A local restauranteur, Kevin, told Nice television stations that he watched the fireworks with his family, but decided to get ice cream afterwards since the parking was so bad.
Kevin said as soon as they headed off, they heard screams from the crowd so he tried to help.
“I put my wife and children safe at the inside and ran against the flow to see if I could help,” he added. “I should not have. What I saw was horrible. Women’s bodies crushed, blood everywhere, there was no one to help, so I turned back.”
Video on social media shows large groups fleeing away from the scene on the Promenade – one of the most famous roads in France – and an eyewitness told the Associated Press, that there were “bodies everywhere.”
A witness and local resident tells PEOPLE that the truck “came a great distance, ran hundreds of yards through the crowd, at high speed. There was great panic.”
“White truck literally racing through crowds of all ages. People either caught in path or forced to jump onto rocks over beach barrier,” another witness told NBC in a Twitter message. “Some dead. Horrific.”
The truck occupants and police exchanged gunfire after the attack, CNN reported.
“We heard a lot of gunfire. The crowd came to us and told us to run,” a witness identified as Chloe told local Nice outlets. “We got in a tapas bar on rue Longchamp, and hid in the toilet for half hour. There, we went out and again we heard people running and say ‘Truck, truck,’ then we hid again for an hour. The manager took us out by the back door and then I went home.”
Police told NBC they were aware and investigating the incident, and local officials have dubbed it a terror attack, reported Time.
WATCH: French President Fran ois Hollande Speaks Out: ‘Terrorist Attack Cannot Be Ignored’
As police continue their investigation, businesses in the area are taking steps to keep their patrons safe. Starwood Hotels released a statement regarding one of their properties in the city.
“Following the suspected Terror attack in Nice this evening Le Meridian Nice is on lockdown and we have activated out emergency plans,” the statement read. “We can confirm that the hotel is currently reported safe and that there is no hostage situation. Hotel teams are working hard to look after our guests and associates at this time.”
National Security Council spokesman Ned Price told PEOPLE in a statement that President Barack Obama has been briefed on the attack. “His national security team will update him, as appropriate,” Price said.
The White House also released a statement from President Obama on Instagram.
“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,” the statement read. “Our thought and prayers are with the families and other loved ones of those killed, and we wise 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. We stand in solidarity and partnership with France, our oldest ally, as they respond to and recover from this attack.”
The statement continued: “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.”
This is a breaking story. It will be updated as more information becomes available.
•Reporting by PETER MIKELBANK