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Nice: '75 dead' as lorry hits crowds in French city

شعار Al Jazeera Al Jazeera 15/07/2016
Nice: '73 dead' as lorry hits crowds in French city: Lorry hits crowds celebrating Bastille Day in southern city of Nice with many reported dead and injured. © Provided by Al Jazeera Lorry hits crowds celebrating Bastille Day in southern city of Nice with many reported dead and injured.

At least 75 people were killed and another 100 injured in the southern French city of Nice after an attacker drove a lorry ran into a crowd celebrating the Bastille Day national holiday, according to French officials.

Police shot and killed the driver, who drove at high speed along the famed Promenade des Anglais seafront before hitting the mass of spectators, regional sub-prefect Sebastien Humbert told France Info radio.

The ranking politician of the Alpes-Maritime department that includes Nice said the truck plowed into the crowd over a distance of two kilometers, killing 75 people.

Eric Ciotti said on BFM TV that police killed the driver "apparently after an exchange of gunfire".

IN PICS: Bastille Day attack in Nice, France

Lorry crashes into Bastille Day crowd, Nice, France - 15 Jul 2016 The ID card in the name of Nice terror suspect Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel which was found in the cab of the lorry Latest on Bastille Day attack in Nice

Humbert described it as a clear criminal attack, although the driver was not yet identified. Residents of the Mediterranean city close to the Italian border were advised to stay indoors. There was no sign of any other attack.

Ciotti said the truck was loaded with arms and grenades. 

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."

Allemand said people took shelter in a nearby restaurant, where he continued to hear people shouting for missing family members. He ventured out and saw bodies, blood and body parts all along the road.

"This evening, it was horror," Allemand concluded.

The Paris prosecutor's office opened an investigation for "murder, attempted murder in an organized group linked to a terrorist enterprise". The probe is being handled by France's intelligence agency and judicial police.

An eyewitness told AP that he saw the truck driver emerge shooting, after ramming into the crowd.

"There was carnage on the road," Wassim Bouhlel, a Nice native, told the news agency. "Bodies everywhere."

Al Jazeera reporter David Coady was at the scene.

"I was enjoying the Bastille Day fireworks just like thousands of other people at the promenade in Nice," he said.

COMPLETE COVERAGE: Nice Bastille Day Attack

"I was just walking back after the fireworks had finished. I looked towards the truck and I thought it was a bit odd, because the roads were shut down and there were hundreds perhaps thousands of people walking along.

"But then from the direction of the truck, I started hearing screaming and then people started running. And so I joined all those people in running away from there."

President Barack Obama released a statement shortly after news broke of the attack condemning "what appears to be a horrific terrorist attack".

Almost exactly eight months ago attackers linked to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) killed 130 people in Paris on November 13, the bloodiest in a number of attacks in France and Belgium in the past two years. On Sunday, France had breathed a sigh of relief as the month-long Euro 2016 soccer tournament ended without a feared attack.

French President Francois Hollande, who was in the south of France at the time of the attack but raced back to Paris to the national crisis centre, had hours earlier said that a state of emergency put in place after the Paris attacks in November would not be extended when it expires on July 26.

"We can't extend the state of emergency indefinitely, it would make no sense. That would mean we're no longer a republic with the rule of law applied in all circumstances," Hollande told journalists in a traditional Bastille Day interview.

WATCH: Video captures moment truck crashed into crowd in Nice, France

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