NICE, France — A truck drove on to the sidewalk and plowed through a crowd of Bastille Day revelers who'd gathered to watch fireworks in the French resort city of Nice late Thursday in what some officials and eyewitnesses described as a deliberate attack. The president of the Nice region said at least 60 people were killed.
Sylvie Toffin, a press officer with the local prefecture, said that the truck "hit several people on a long trip" down the sidewalk near Nice's Palais de la Mediterranee, a building that fronts the beach. She called the incident "an attack." Nice regional president Eric Ciotti said on France Info radio that "It's a scene of horror" and gave a figure of 60 dead. He said he was speaking from the scene.
Nice prosecutor Jean-Michel Prette said bodies are strewn about along the roadway. However he stopped short of using the word attack, while acknowledging that "it has many ingredients of an attack that allow us to think that."
Wassim Bouhlel, a Nice native who spoke to the AP nearby, said that he saw a truck drive into the crowd.
"There was carnage on the road," Bouhlel said. "Bodies everywhere."
The president of the region that includes Nice said the truck was loaded with arms and grenades and the driver was killed by police. Christian Estrosi told BFM TV that "the driver fired on the crowd, according to the police who killed him."
Images circulating on social media showed grisly scenes of piles of bodies in the street. The president of the Provence Alpes Côte d'Azur regional council, Christian Estrosi, said in a message posted to Twitter that dozens of people appear to have been killed.
Bouhlel said he witnessed the man emerge with a gun and start shooting, but Toffin said she that, "to my knowledge" there was no gunfire.
Writing online, 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."
It was not immediately clear who would have been behind an attack, but France has recently seen a spate of dramatic assaults from by jihadist groups, including the Islamic State group which straddles Iraq and Syria.