Tuesday 20 March 2018

The children caught up in the terror of Nice attack

A doll lies beside a body in the aftermath of the Nice attack. Photo: REUTERS/Eric Gaillard
A doll lies beside a body in the aftermath of the Nice attack. Photo: REUTERS/Eric Gaillard
Russian student Viktoria Shavchenko
American father and son Sean and Brodie Copeland are believed to be among the dead.
A man mourns in Nice. Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images

Colleen Barry, Martin Grant and Gareth Morgan

Dozens of children were among the people killed and wounded after a 31-year-old French-Tunisian drove a truck through crowds celebrating Bastille Day in Nice.

The death toll from Thursday night's attack rose to 84 as France reeled from the latest terrorist atrocity to be visited upon its people.

American father and son Sean and Brodie Copeland are believed to be among the dead.
American father and son Sean and Brodie Copeland are believed to be among the dead.

A French prosecutor said that of the 202 people injured, 25 were on life support and 52 were in a critical condition.

He confirmed that the attack was carried out by Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, who is reported to have told police that he was "delivering ice cream" in the run-up to the carnage.

At least 10 of the dead and 50 of the injured are children who had gathered with their families to watch the fireworks along the Promenade des Anglais on the seafront of the French Riviera.

An Irishman was among those fighting for his life last night after the terrifying attack, which saw the lorry swerve from side to side in an apparent bid to hit as many pedestrians as possible along a deadly 2km course.

It is believed that the victim is originally from Galway, although he now lives abroad, having emigrated from Ireland.

"His condition is critical and the injuries he sustained are serious," a source revealed.

Officials were last night attempting to contact the man's immediate family.

Meanwhile, the children's hospital in Nice said it treated about 50 youngsters injured in the attack, including two who died during or after surgery.

Spokeswoman Stephanie Simpson said that the injuries included fractures and head injuries - and that these victims were all aged 18 or under.

She added: "Some are still life and death."

France has declared three days of national mourning following the terrorist atrocity.

President Francois Hollande said the state of emergency would be extended for another three months. A military operation is in place, allowing the mobilisation of 10,000 troops.

Mr Hollande said: "France has been hit by a tragedy once again. This monstrosity of using a lorry to deliberately kill people, many people, who only came out to celebrate their national day.

"France is in tears, hurting but strong and she will be strongalways stronger than the fanatics who wish to hurt us."

Speaking later after a defence council meeting, Prime Minister Manuel Valls said some 26,274 gendarmes will be mobilised to maintain the heightened level of security.

Thursday night's massacre of pedestrians leaving a fireworks display along the southern city's famed boulevard ended only after police killed the armed attacker in a hail of bullets.

Reports suggested that the lorry's murderous path was only halted when a brave motorcyclist leapt onboard. The driver is said to have pulled a gun before being shot dead by police.

Bouhlel had no history suggesting a link with terrorism, but had narrowly avoided being put behind bars months before the attack.

He received a six-month prison sentence in March for assault with a weapon, but his sentence was suspended.

The weapon used was a plank of wood against another driver after a traffic accident.

Broadcast footage yesterday showed a scene of horror along Nice's promenade, with broken bodies splayed on the asphalt.

Stephane Erbs was heading back to his car with his wife, Rachel, and their two children when he saw the white truck bearing down on their position. He told The Associated Press that his first instinct was to throw his 7-year-old son, Celion, out of harm's way, while his wife pushed their daughter, 12-year-old Noemi, to safety.

"I threw him in the direction of the wall" that runs along the promenade, next to the beach, said Erbs, who broke seven ribs as he tried to get out of the way. His children were unharmed- but his wife was still missing.

A Facebook site called "SOS Nice" has begun to attract posts from people hoping to be reunited with missing family members - particularly children. The site was quickly filling up with photos, appeals and - in some cases - good news. A nine-year-old and his family "have finally been found!" one post announced, atop a photo of a child in front of a birthday cake.

But other appeals remained unanswered last night.

Among those confirmed dead are three Germans, two Americans, Moroccans and Armenians, and one each from Russia, Switzerland and Ukraine.

No group has claimed responsibility for the carnage, but French officials called it an undeniable act of terror. The assault on revellers rocked a nation still dealing with the aftermath of two attacks in Paris last year, which killed 147 people and were claimed by the Islamic State extremist group.

World leaders united in support of France, vowing to fight back against violent extremism.

Speaking in Castlebar, Taoiseach Enda Kenny described the attack as an "act of madness".

"I'd like to, on behalf of the Government and the Irish people, extend our sincere and deepest sympathies to President Hollande and the French people. Just recovering from a very successful Euro championships and to have this atrocity imposed on them is just another tragic incident in a world of great uncertainty."

The Department of Foreign Affairs last night was unable to reveal any further details regarding the Irishman who was injured.

Irish Independent

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