An Irish man living in Nice has told how he heard gunshots being fired on the streets while he was locked into a pub for safety for up to 40 minutes last night.
Ian Daly, a chef from Roscommon who lives and works in Nice, said he first knew something was wrong near Promenade des Anglais when he saw huge crowds of people running towards him at a tram station.
Mr Daly arrived in Nice by tram from Cannes when he was met with the chaos.
“I got off the tram and there were hundreds and hundreds of people running towards the tram to get on for safety.”
As Ian made his way to Ma Nolan’s Irish pub in the city, the heaving crowd continued to run for cover. Once Mr Daly arrived at the pub, the police ordered that everyone be locked inside.
“Once our owner Christophe was in contact with the police – we were locked into the pub for about 30 or 40 minutes.”
“Nobody knew what was going on, we heard gun shots but we didn’t know where they were from, were they attacks, were they police? People were just running through the streets.”
“Because of the celebrations yesterday there were a lot of children in the pub that were on lockdown and they were very upset.”
Mr Daly and his colleagues began to frantically text their other colleagues who they knew had been celebrating Bastille Day by watching the fire works on the beach by Promenade des Anglais.
“There was another concern for us last night because a lot of them were on the beach watching the fireworks for Bastille Day.”
“Thankfully, they were all ok.”
Ian and the other occupants of the pub didn’t leave until around 1am this morning. As he walked back to work again this morning, he witnessed a very sombre city.
“It’s sad. You can feel sadness. There is a lot of security. It’s hard to describe, you can feel the sadness in the air.”
“Since the Paris attacks last year security in Nice has been really high. After the Euros in Nice too it’s been very good. The emergency services acted so quickly last night, it was amazing. It was impressive how quickly they reacted; they were on the streets within minutes. There’s going to be more security brought in now for the next few weeks and months."
Meanwhile, Dermot Mulhall, who is originally from Kilkenny but living in Nice for the last three years, said he was a couple of blocks away from Promenade des Anglais when the tragic events occurred.
Mr Mulhall said a large group of his friends were all attending the celebrations and fireworks last night, but he decided to stay away.
He could hear the crowd’s screams when he got a phone call from a friend telling him not to come near the area.
“We heard screaming. That was the first thing we heard, which would be unusual here for that time of night. It’s unusual to see mass running and screaming.”
“There was a group of friends down there watching it and the plan was to go there and sit down on the beach.”
“Straight away the phone rang and it was one of my friends who had been on the upper end of the promenade.”
“She rang to know ‘was I on it?’, something was after happening, and wanted to know ‘was I Ok?’ She said ‘stay away from it, we don’t know what’s happening’. She headed home straight away.”
For the next few hours, Mr Mulhall and his friends were reaching out to all their friends to make sure everyone was safe and accounted for.
“The next couple of hours was basically making sure everyone was OK. We made contact with almost everyone by 3am.”
“It came through a few minutes later a police officer had informed a friend of an attack.”
Last night, from about 11.30pm, Nice’s streets were deathly quiet, which would never happen on Bastille Day – which Mr Mulhall described as “France’s St Patrick’s Day”.
“It’s Paddy’s Day to them. There would have been a huge amount of people on the beach with picnics and bottles of wine.”
“The Mayor of the region asked us all to stay in. It was immediately alerted. The streets went very quiet afterwards. People took the message, everyone stayed in, Bastille Day would never be that quiet.”
“I was walking at 7.30am today and it does make you look over your shoulder as you’re walking along. Around 11.30pm last night the streets were emptied.”
Meanwhile, Taoiseach Enda Kenny issued a statement to condemn last night's attack.
“I am deeply shocked and saddened at this horrific attack in Nice. Once again innocent people have been targeted at an occasion of joy and celebration. French people have suffered appallingly and have again been the victim of cynical, and wanton violence,” Mr Kenny said.
“We cannot and will not yield to the malevolence.”
“On behalf of myself, the Government and the Irish people I want to express our deepest sympathies and our solidarity to President Hollande and to all of France.”