Truck Plows Through Crowd Celebrating Bastille Day in Nice, France

Jul 14, 2016
Originally published on August 1, 2016 11:07 am
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

We're learning more about the truck crash in Nice, a city in the south of France. The truck plowed into a crowd celebrating Bastille Day. As many as 60 people are dead. Many more are injured. The AFP news agency has released a photo showing the truck's windshield full of bullet holes. NPR's Eleanor Beardsley joins us now from Paris. Hi, Eleanor.

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: Hi, Ari.

SHAPIRO: What details can you share about what we know so far?

BEARDSLEY: Well, yes, the Nice prosecutor says that 60 - at least 60 people are dead. And it was a wonderful night, Ari. As you said, it's Bastille Day. It's France's national holiday, like July 4th. And Nice is a town on the Mediterranean Sea. And thousands of people were out on a place called the Promenade des Anglais, which is a boardwalk that runs along the Mediterranean Sea with palm trees. There were families and tourists, vacationers, and they were watching the fireworks.

And a truck got a start from about a mile away, plowed into the crowd. And at least 60 people are dead. The driver was shot. There may have been a second person in the truck. We don't know yet. We don't know who that driver is. President Francois Hollande was in the south of France. He has come back to Paris. There is a crisis meeting going on as I speak to you.

Witnesses describe hundreds of people running in every direction, pounding on doors asking to be let in. Another witness described layers of bodies piled on each other and - and restaurant - people taking, you know, tablecloths from restaurants to lay over them. So a horrible scene and people are in complete shock.

SHAPIRO: Now, one point this evening, regional officials in Nice were warning people to stay indoors, stay at home, go someplace safe. Is that still the case?

BEARDSLEY: I believe so. I'm watching TV right now, and the whole city is just, you know, locked down. And yes, they're saying stay home, although this seems to be the act of one person or very few people. But Ari, everyone has in their mind this was France's, you know, national fete holiday. And this is definitely some sort of symbolic attack against France tonight. No one knows who has done it. The terrorism - terrorist case has not yet been opened because we're sure of nothing at this point. But it looks like an attack to send a clear message tonight that you're not safe wherever you are. And we - you know, they've attacked on a very important day in France.

SHAPIRO: Well, as you say, nobody knows the motivations here. But France does have a sad and tragic recent history with terrorist attacks.

BEARDSLEY: That's right, Ari. Just, you know, six months ago in November, there was an attack, 147 killed. And then last January, an attack - 20 killed. So France has been under emergency - a state of emergency. And actually, President Francois Hollande just announced today that when that state of emergency expires on July 26, he will not renew it. Paris - the whole country just hosted the European Championship football tournament, a month long. Everything went very well. There were, you know, 100,000 people gathered in these fan zones around the country, especially in Paris under the Eiffel Tower, and everything went well. And I think people were just feeling very confident, very good. That came off without a hitch.

Tonight is Bastille Day. Everyone all over the country, in Paris and in other big cities, was out watching the fireworks and celebrating, and now this. And there's just a feeling - I was out making my way home from fireworks tonight. And, you know, people finding out about it were feeling, no, not again. This can't be happening again. But it seems to be.

SHAPIRO: Well, of course, we'll continue following this story as we learn more throughout the evening. NPR's Eleanor Beardsley in Paris, thank you very much.

BEARDSLEY: Thanks Ari. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.