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"This is on purpose, he's trying to kill people" - Irish people in Nice react to nightmare attack

At present there are no reports of Irish fatalities stemming from last night’s terror attack.

France Truck Attack Parents of victims embrace each other near the scene of last night's attack in Nice Source: Luca Bruno

Updated 10.35am

LAST NIGHT’S TERROR attack in Nice has left the locality numb with shock.

With the death toll from the truck attack currently at 84 that shock is likely to worsen as the day goes on.

At present, no Irish fatalities have been reported with the Department of Foreign Affairs confirming that it is as yet unaware of any such instance.

Several Irish people were in the vicinity of the city’s promenade for the Bastille Day celebrations however as the truck wrought a two-kilometre trail of destruction through the packed crowd.

“Why isn’t he slowing down?”

One Irish man, who gave his name as Rob, told RTÉ’s Today with Seán O’Rourke that he had run to the beach close to the Nice promenade after the truck struck when he saw a French man coming in the opposite direction “who said gunshots were being fired”.

“We hadn’t heard any shots, we had just seen the truck,” he said.

It was going pretty fast, we didn’t hear anyone screaming beforehand, just this noise of it hitting something, and then we saw him mow down two or three people.
It was just surreal, you’re thinking ‘why isn’t he slowing down?’ and then we realised he isn’t going to slow down, this is on purpose, he’s trying to kill people.

Rob said that there were people “of all ages, kids, teenagers, grandparents” on the promenade.

France Truck Attack Police working on the truck used in last night's attack this morning in Nice Source: AP/Press Association Images

“Who doesn’t want to see a fireworks display?” he said. “There was a huge amount of people on the promenade and beach, and he was just cutting through them all.”

After the attack Rob and his friends “deliberately didn’t go back to the promenade”.

I saw six or seven bodies, maybe more. We just felt it’s probably best to stay out of the way.

Absolute chaos

Stephen Milton, a freelance journalist, told RTÉ Morning Ireland that the situation went from “a wonderful vibe to absolute chaos, pandemonium broke out”.

We literally turned to go down a side street and 30 seconds later we could see kids running towards us. Then we saw more and more people and they were shouting “you have to run now”.
We ended up in a storeroom of a restaurant without any clue of what was going on.

Stephen didn’t see or hear the truck, but he “saw the area of most devastation outside the Hard Rock Café”.

“I heard gunshots, which obviously I’d never heard in my life before,” he said.

You’re caught in a situation you never thought you’d be in. There were French teenagers who were absolutely distraught.

Stephen described the atmosphere this morning as “very strange and surreal”.

There are police cordons all around the scene so you can’t see bodies or anything, although I can still see the truck itself riddled with bullet holes. There’s armed police are all over the promenade but there’s also joggers.

France Truck Attack Source: Claude Paris

There’s a sense of resilience which you have to admire, but also, people are still just waking up to this.

“Never seen such fear”

Derry man Paddy Mullan, who is in Nice on holiday with his girlfriend, told the BBC of the moments immediately following the attack.

“This lorry just mounted the kerb, across the street from us and the next thing, all you could hear was banging and shouting and screaming,” he said.

Paddy said he had “never seen” such fear. He and his girlfriend had been having dinner at a nearby restaurant before walking onto the promenade to watch the celebrations.

He said the truck “came out of nowhere” and “started ploughing into the crowd”.

We didn’t know if it was people on the ground shooting or if there was a bomb, or what was going on, we were just trying to get away.

The couple left through the back of the restaurant and tried to gain entry to an apartment block behind the building.

“Eventually we got in,” he said.

I’ve never seen fear like like it in all my life and probably never will again.

Barbaric

Speaking to Morning Ireland, the Irish ambassador to France Geraldine Byrne Nason described the attack as “just utterly barbaric”.

“It’s hard to find superlatives to describe how vulnerable these people were on an evening that was so iconic, a day that’s there to celebrate all that’s best about France,” she said.

We’ve moved beyond anything we can articulate as reasonable behaviour that we can understand.

France Truck Attack Source: Christian Alminana

“An attack like this impossible to predict and almost impossible to manage,” she said.

It comes down to being able to predict people who have no sense of their own sacrifice, someone willing to give up their lives to injure others, it’s very, very difficult.

Regarding Irish people in France, Byrne Nason said that “the bottom line is to stay in touch”.

This country is still in a state of emergency. The main advice to all is utmost vigilance, we’re not saying don’t travel, but show the utmost vigilance and respect for local security advice.

While there has been no confirmation that any Irish person has been hurt in last night’s attack, the Irish Embassy in Paris has advised that any Irish citizen in Nice needing help should contact them at 0144 176 700. If calling from outside France, add the French code: 00 33 0144 176 700.

Originally published 8.34am

  • If you are an Irish person in Nice, we’d like to hear from you. You can get in touch by emailing news@thejournal.ie.

Read: ‘The fear on their faces told us we had to run’: Witnesses describe chaos after Nice truck attack

Read: “Monstrosity”: Horror moment when truck ploughs through crowd in Nice

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