NICE: A truck ploughed into a crowd in the French resort of Nice Thursday, leaving at least 80 dead and scores injured in an "attack" after a Bastille Day fireworks display, prosecutors said.
The government said the driver of the truck was shot dead after barrelling down the palm-lined Promenade des Anglais, sending hundreds of terrified people fleeing and leaving the seaside path strewn with fallen bodies.
"An individual drove a truck into the crowd. He was killed by police," said interior ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet.
A photograph showed the front of the truck riddled with bullet holes and badly damaged, with burst tyres.
obert Holloway, an AFP reporter who witnessed the white truck driving at high speed onto the seaside road, described scenes of "absolute chaos".
"We saw people hit and bits of debris flying around. I had to protect my face from flying debris," he said.
Nice prosecutor Jean-Michel Pretre said at least 70 people were killed after the truck drove two kilometres (1.3 miles) through the crowd.
Hours after the attack, dozens of bodies lay on the ground covered in white sheets.
Local government official Sebastien Humbert said scores more people were injured in what he called "a major criminal attack".
While the incident has not been claimed by any group, prosecutors said the probe would be handled by anti-terrorist investigators.
"Investigations are currently under way to establish if the individual acted alone or if he had accomplices who might have fled," the interior ministry spokesman said, but he denied reports that a hostage-taking incident had taken place.Truck
´People were tripping over
The bloodshed comes eight months after Islamic State jihadist attacks on Paris nightspots left 130 people dead, which already struck a blow to tourism in one of the world´s top destinations.
Islamic State has repeatedly singled out France as a prime target, and the country has been under a state of emergency ever since the November 13 Paris attacks.
The Mediterranean city of Nice, with its pebble beaches and clear blue water, has been a magnet for sun-seekers and the jetset since the 19th century.
An Australian citizen, Emily Watkins, was caught up in the chaos, and told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that while she saw the truck, she did not realise what had happened.
"There was a lot of screams coming from ahead of us where the truck was, and people just running towards us and without really knowing what was going on we turned and ran as well.
"People were tripping over and trying to get into hotel lobbies and restaurants or car parks or anywhere they could to get away from the street."
The apparent assault came just hours after France announced that a state of emergency declared after last November´s attacks would come to an end later this month.
President Francois Hollande said the decree after the November 13 attacks would not be renewed beyond July 26, because a law bolstering security in France was adopted in May.
´Stay in your homes´
The incident comes after a day of revelry as France celebrated its national day, Bastille Day, which began with military pomp and ceremony as its armed forces, tanks and fighter jets swooped down the Champs Elysees avenue.
The holiday typically ends with spectacular fireworks over the Eiffel Tower in Paris, as well as cities around the country.
However celebrations were quickly overshadowed.
Images on television showed the Promenade des Anglais sealed off, crawling with police and ambulances and authorities from the local Alpes-Maritimes prefecture urged residents to stay indoors.
"The driver of a van appears to have killed dozens. Stay in your homes for now. More info to follow," said Nice Mayor Christian Estrosi.
Hollande rushed back to Paris from the southern city of Avignon for crisis talks, his office said.
France´s Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve meanwhile headed straight to Nice.
The incident comes as France was breathing a sigh of relief after successfully hosting the month-long Euro 2016 football championship, which passed off without incident.
US President Barack Obama was being briefed, the White House said.
"The president has been apprised of the situation in Nice, France, and his national security team will update him, as appropriate," said National Security Council spokesman Ned Price.
US Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump postponed announcing his pick for running mate because of the events in France.
"In light of the horrible attack in Nice, France, I have postponed tomorrow´s news conference concerning my Vice Presidential announcement" Trump posted on Twitter Thursday.