Tourists describe horrifying scenes as terrorist slaughters 84 in French city of Nice
Posted by Karen White on
Tourists describe horrifying scenes as terrorist slaughters 84 in French city of Nice
07/15/2016 08:56:27 AM
A British tourist has described how panicked people 'ran over dead bodies' to escape as terror unfolded at a Bastille Day fireworks display in Nice, as the Foreign Office issues a 'high' alert for France.
Esther Serwah, 59, was on her way to dinner on the Promenade de Anglais when a terrorist gunman killed 84 people and seriously injured 50 more after he used a 25-tonne lorry to go on a mile-long killing spree by mounting pavements at high speed and ploughing through crowds.
Fifty children were taken to the Lanval Foundation Children’s Hospital, in Nice. Two died on Friday morning during surgery and others are still ‘between life and death’, the hospital's head of communications said.
Mrs Serwah, from Surrey, was walking along the promenade with her daughters when screaming broke out.
'I saw everybody running and I just didn't know what was going on. People were screaming at me in French but I didn't understand,' she said.
'Some people were lying on the streets dead and people were running over the bodies.'
Another British woman in Nice, Sally Gardiner, told MailOnline she had been badly injured in the attack and has a 'possible broken shoulder and facial grazing and badly bruised eye'.
British nationals in the south of France are being told to follow the instructions of the French authorities after a Bastille Day attack in Nice killed dozens of people, including children (Pictured: People cross the street with their hands on their heads as a French soldier secures the area)
Police hold up a group of people outside the hotel Le Negresco, a grand beachfront hotel in Nice
'I got knocked down in the road with everyone running away from the truck and gunfire,' she said.
'My studio flat is right where the fatalities happened. Horrible, horrible sight. I am sheltering a French family of five. People running and screaming now in Rue de France which I overlook.'
Ms Gardiner said she was unclear where she should go to seek medical treatment on Thursday night because they were told to stay inside.
A British national was injured in the attack in Nice, France, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has confirmed.
Two young French students on holiday from Paris, gave a graphic description of the horror around them as one stared into the face of the driver who ‘seemed to be having fun’
Speaking to the Nouvel Observateur, Helena, said the truck halted beside her as people fled.
‘I thought the brakes had seized. I stood there unable to move, paralysed, watching people screaming and pushing, bodies going down. It was like I was in a movie.'
But her friend Cyprian said: ‘The truck was almost upon us. I even had time to see the driver’s face. He was bearded and he seemed to be having fun.’
Forensics officers and policemen look for evidences near a truck on the Promenade des Anglais seafront on Friday
Forensic police stand on the Promenade des Anglais collecting evidence after the horrific attack
Bodies of victims were covered by sheets at the scene of the truck attack in Nice
A man on a scooter tried to stop the driver.
Helena watched as an old lady was sucked into the wheels of the lorry. ‘She was lying, her head bleeding, he leg completely dislocated at an odd angle. She said ‘I’m dying. I wanted to help but was pulled away.’
The pair took refuge at the West End Hotel. Inside a young boy of about five was dragged in.
‘We saw him die in his mother’s arms. Then we heard her scream,’ said Helena.
Another British witness, Lucy Nesbitt-Comaskey, told Sky News that restaurants along the promenade urged everyone to come inside.
'I said to my friend 'This doesn't sound like fireworks, it sounds like Beirut when it's under fire',' she recalled.
A shocked woman in yellow sits on the phone next to the body of a loved-one, surrounded by debris, as ISIS terrorists again struck in France, this time on Bastille Day, killing at least 84
A group of people attend to someone injured by the seafront in the terrorist attack
She was planning to go to the fireworks but had stopped to find a toilet on the way when the horror broke out.
Roy Calley, a BBC journalist who lives in Nice, said: 'I heard what at first I thought was a bit of an explosion, though maybe that was my imagination.
'Almost instantaneously people started to scream and run in all directions… it was a case of panic for a good 10 to 15 minutes following,' he said.
Briton Will Shore was in a nearby bar and ran towards the city centre when he heard gunfire to find the military and the local police ushering absolutely everybody out of the area.
'It was quite chaotic really. There was a lot of people screaming, running around and people were kind of being pushed over, I think, from people just being so frightened about what was going on, especially after hearing the gunshots,' he told the BBC.
'I had to help a couple of people up who were in distress on the floor because everyone was in such a panic.'
Two bereft women sit by a victim of the attack. Eyewitnesses saw people 'running over dead bodies'
The popular tourist area was shutdown after the tragedy unfolded. The travel alert on the Foreign Office's site says there is a 'high' threat of terrorism in France
Kevin Harris saw the horrific attack from his balcony and told the BBC saw bodies 'lying in the road'.
He told Good Morning Britain that he had just returned to his room after the Bastille Day firework display when the attack happened.
Mr Harris said: 'About a minute after being in the room I heard some gunshots, went out onto my terrace and just looked and saw this dreadful scene of lots of bodies just lying in the middle of the Promenade and a truck which had sort of crashed into a tree on the right hand side.'
'The strange thing was that these poor people just weren’t moving, there wasn’t anybody who seemed to be injured, they had just been hit so hard that everybody was dead. I realised that when they started bringing towels off the beach club that’s very close to it and laying these towels over these people,' he said.
'There was a separate body which was behind the truck which they didn’t cover and I assumed that that was probably the driver,' he added.
Kartik Bhanot, 26, from Essex said at first he thought it was a drunk driver as he walked along the promenade with his parents and sister.
He described 'swathes' of bodies lying by the road after the lorry had driven through, 'flipping' people as it went.
British witness Kevin Harris saw the horrific attack from his balcony and saw bodies 'lying in the road'
The Foreign Office has confirmed a UK national was caught up in the terror attack. The area on the French Riviera is a popular holiday destination for British tourists
He was walking with his mother, who has cancer, behind his dad and sister when the terrorist struck.
He said: 'The beach was on our left, the other side of the road, and the area was full of happy families and kids, who just enjoyed the firework display.
'Suddenly as we crossed the junction, we heard screams and loud bangs. I looked for my Mum and she was sprinting away... I was puzzled. I looked back and saw on my left this huge grey lorry, travelling at least 60mph, about five to 10 metres from me.
'It was ploughing through people. I saw bodies flipped and continuous loud bangs.'
He said the family had enjoyed a meal at Les Jardins du Capitole and were strolling back to their hotel after the fireworks when it all happened.
'I'm still shaking. My last memory of the incident is of a young guy in a blue shirt lying crooked on the ground after the lorry raced past him and through him.
'I don't know if he was shot or run over, or just fell over, but I'm praying he is fine as is everyone else involved.
'My heart goes out to everyone who is French. I'm just a tourist here, but I pray that these unjust, heinous, sick and sadistic attacks on you never happen again.'
'There wasn’t anybody who seemed to be injured, they had just been hit so hard that everybody was dead,' Mr Harris said
Meanwhile, a British Gran has told how she calmed frightened tourists in Nice - with cups of English tea.
Jane Murphy and her friend Kate Lumbers, both 70, were on the promenade to watch the fireworks but rushed back to the their hotel when 'total panic broke out'.
Jane, from Dover, Kent, described the moment people began screaming and running for their lives at around 10.30pm as 'pandemonium'.
She said: 'People started screaming and running. We ran with them to get out of the way. It was just total panic - pandemonium.
"All you could hear was screaming as people were running to safety. It was total carnage.'
The pensioners raced back to their hotel, the Compte De Nice, quickly called her husband Nev back home to let him know they were safe.
She then busied herself making tea for tourists and locals taking cover inside the hotel.
Jane said: 'There was a little lad at the hotel - a 17-year-old student from Germany. He was hiding in a garage terrified.
'Some local people took him in to the hotel because he was on his own and scared.
'I'm a mum and a gran. My first thought was the kids.
'I was trying to pacify them. We were drinking English tea with them.'
On Friday morning, a security guard walks near the scene of an attack after a truck drove onto the sidewalk and plowed through a crowd who'd gathered to watch the fireworks
A Labour MP has revealed how he and friends fled in fear down Nice's Promenade des Anglais - as the terrorist truck ploughed through the helpless crowd.
Father-of-two John Woodcock, 37 - MP for Barrow and Furness - even later gave shelter overnight to a frightened Parisian family in his flat as the city lay in fear of more attacks.
Mr Woodcock had jetted over to Nice earlier this week to enjoy the famous Bastille Day celebrations on the seafront, when terror struck on Thursday night.
Yesterday morning(Fri) he tweeted: 'Tragedy in Nice is devastating. I happen to be in the city at the moment. On Promenade with celebrating crowd last night, now safe indoors.'
After making his way back to his holiday apartment in a gated complex, Mr Woodcock gave shelter to a young Parisian couple with their three-year-old son.
WHAT DOES THE ATTACK MEAN FOR FRANCE?
Dr Natasha Underhill, a terrorism expert at Nottingham Trent University, said: 'Now, more than ever, the European Union security community needs to work in unison to try to prevent, as best as possible, this style of individual-led violence.
'The danger of "lone-wolf" style attacks, however, is that the intelligence community – no matter how well-prepared – cannot monitor all individuals who become self-radicalised and choose to carry out an act of this kind.
'Although there have been no claims for this attack as yet, linking it to Islamic State at this point means that the French government have given the organisation the "glory" of this act of violence.
'The impact for France is likely to be one of a greater security-focused state, but the dangers of doing so play into the hands of groups such as Islamic State.
'Fear is the strongest influence terrorists have over us, and if the French government in some way infringe on their citizens’ civil liberties and freedoms in the fight against terrorism, the terrorists win.
'The French need to stand strong, not falter in their campaign against terrorism and use this horrific act of violence to make their country and the world a safer place through logical and calculated reactions.'
The French family stopped in Mr Woodcock's flat that night while the MP slept in the bathroom.
Mr Woodcock, who is due to fly home on Saturday, said he had contacted his family to let them know he was safe and well.
Luckily neither of his two daughters Maisie and Molly, aged four and seven, were with him on the holiday.
It has been confirmed a 48-year-old high ranking policeman was among those killed on the Promenade des Anglais.
Christian Estrosi, former Mayor of Nice and Regional President, confirmed that the Deputy Director of Police and Border (PAF) Nice, in charge of airport security, was among those killed when the truck struck. He had gone to the Bastille display with his girlfriend, also a high ranking officer and her daughter.
No name has been given yet.
The eyewitness accounts come as the Foreign Office has issued a 'high' terror alert for France following the Bastille Day attack.
The area on the French Riviera is a popular holiday destination for British tourists.
The travel alert on the Foreign Office's site says there is a 'high' threat of terrorism in France.
A Foreign Office spokesman said: 'We are in touch with the local authorities and seeking more information following an apparent attack on a Bastille Day celebration in Nice.
'If you are in the area follow the instructions of the French authorities.
'Our thoughts are with those affected and we stand by to help any British nationals.'
The Association of British Travel Agents also said in a statement that travellers in Nice are advised to follow the instructions of French authorities, who are at present advising people to stay indoors at this time.
'ABTA would recommend that all visitors read and follow the latest travel advice for France by talking to their travel agent or tour operator and following Foreign Office advice.
'As in the UK where the terrorism threat level is severe, travellers should remain alert and vigilant, especially in places where there is a high concentration of people,' the association said.
When the vehicle, which was packed with guns and grenades, struck crowds it travelled for over a mile down the Promenade des Anglais before police managed to kill the driver.
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said the government is declaring three days of national mourning after a truck attack in Nice
French President Francois Hollande, left, leaves the Elysee Palace after a security meeting in Paris
One eyewitness described seeing 'bodies flying like bowling pins' and 'hearing noises, cries that I will never forget' as the horror unfolded on a busy promenade in the southern city of Nice at around 11pm last night.
Identity documents belonging to a 31-year-old French Tunisian were later found in the bullet-riddled truck after the gunman at the wheel was shot dead by police, security sources said.
The source added: 'The identification of the truck driver is still underway.' The recovered papers indicate the man is a resident of Nice.
A huge cache of guns, grenades and 'larger weapons' were later found inside the lorry, which mounted the pavement at approximately 40mph and steered directly towards hundreds of people watching a fireworks display. Around 100 people are then said to have dived into the sea as panic ensued and revellers desperately ran for their lives.
Anti-terror police swooped in as the city was put on lockdown and residents were warned to stay indoors for their safety.
Addressing the nation, French President Francois Hollande said several children were among the dead, with 80 victims confirmed so far and a further 20 people gravely wounded. He added that it was 'undeniable' the massacre was a terrorist attack.
Eyewitnesses say there was an exchange of gunfire in the aftermath of the incident before the driver was shot dead. ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack, according to unconfirmed reports in the French media.
Identity documents belonging to a 31-year-old French Tunisian were later found in the bullet-riddled truck (pictured) after the gunman at the wheel was shot dead by police, security sources said
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