‘We thought the noise was from post-party crowds’ - South African in Nice

2016-07-15 13:04
South African Jane Strachan at the promenade in Nice. She and her husband Andrew, who have lived in Nice for 18 months, missed the deadly attack there by a few minutes after heading home for an early night. (Supplied)

South African Jane Strachan at the promenade in Nice. She and her husband Andrew, who have lived in Nice for 18 months, missed the deadly attack there by a few minutes after heading home for an early night. (Supplied)

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WATCH: Chaos on Nice beachfront after truck ploughs through crowd

2016-07-15 09:19

At least 84 people have been killed after a truck zig-zagged through crowds of people celebrating Bastille Day in the southern French city of Nice, in an alleged terror attack. Watch as people scramble for safety after the truck passes through. WATCH

Cape Town – A South African living four streets from the Promenade des Anglais in Nice missed "the horror" of a deadly attack there by a few minutes after deciding to head home for an early night.

Jane Strachan and her husband on Thursday night joined the Bastille Day festivities, where a truck later barrelled through the crowd and killed more than 80 people.

Strachan is a communication consultant and former journalist for the Daily News and Business Day, who has been living in Nice for 18 months.

"We strolled and listened to the music for a while before the 22:00 fireworks display, which was launched from boats offshore," she told News24.

Locals and tourists took advantage of the festive summer evening, filling the beaches, promenade and restaurants.

"Kids bobbed along on their parents’ shoulders, teenagers flirted, people made room for each other to see the show," she recalled.

When the fireworks finished at 22:22, the South African couple decided to head back to their apartment for an early night.

"We stopped for a minute or two to watch a young couple doing a tango together on the first-floor balcony of a hotel overlooking the sea, then walked up our street," she said.

'We walk the streets in defiance'

Little did they know that a man had rammed a truck into a crowd of adults and children, leaving 84 dead and another 18 in a critical condition.

"It was windy, so sounds were being swept away, but we did hear more people-noise than usual on our boulevard not long afterwards, we thought just from the post-party crowds," Strachan said.

It was only when a flood of emails, Facebook messages and phone calls came through that they learnt what had happened.

Several of Strachan’s friends were caught up in the panic. She said one took shelter in the basement of a hotel until 3:00. Another hid behind the sealed doors of a restaurant.

She described the city as quiet and stunned on Friday.

"We all wish we could do something, but the blood banks say they have enough. Life should go on as normal, but it seems callous to do that, so we walk the streets in defiance, aimless and in shock."

French President Francois Hollande declared the incident an "undeniable" terrorist attack.

But Strachan, while always aware of the implications of being in large crowds and popular places, said she did not feel less safe than she did in any other major global city.

She reported on explosions while a journalist in Durban in the 1970s and 1980s, and was present when a bomb went off on the Durban beachfront in that time.

"The world events of recent years bring back horrible memories in that regard."

Read more on:    france

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