World

Abe condemns Nice attack; officials scramble to find out if Japanese are among victims

by Alastair Wanklyn

Staff Writer

Japan’s prime minister and other world leaders on Friday condemned the massacre of revelers on a seafront promenade in the French city of Nice by the driver of a speeding, swerving truck on Thursday.

They expressed solidarity with France and offered assistance against terrorism.

At least 84 people died and 18 were in critical condition. Hundreds were injured, with one hospital alone receiving 54 children, the Nice-Matin newspaper reported Friday.

Witnesses said the vehicle swerved over sidewalks in an apparent bid to strike as many people as possible.

“It was a cruel attack, and I offer my sincere condolences to the victims,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said in Ulaan Baatar. “Japan expresses its strong solidarity with France at this difficult time.”

The United Nations Security Council on Thursday called it a “barbaric and cowardly terrorist attack.”

Noting that the attack took place on Bastille Day, France’s national day, U.S. President Barack Obama said France’s “extraordinary resilience” makes it an inspiration to the world.

While a motive for the attack by a man of Tunisian origin was not immediately clear, the president of the European Council said it clashed with French values. “It is a tragic paradox that the victims of the attack were people celebrating liberty, equality and fraternity,” Donald Tusk said in Ulaan Baatar.

There was no immediate confirmation of Japanese among the casualties. Three Australian citizens and a Russian woman were among the first reports of injuries.

The government set up coordination offices at the Japanese Consulate in Marseille and at the Prime Minister’s Office and Foreign Ministry to keep Tokyo informed of developments.

Japanese travel agency JTB Corp. said it had accounted for all its customers in the city.

Travel agency officials were likely to weigh up the risks of France as a destination. A drop-off in visitors after the Paris attacks in November caused airlines to reduce capacity on the Tokyo-Paris route, with Japan Airlines Co. halting one of its two daily flights.

Nippon Travel Agency Co., which said it had no clients in Nice at the time, said it would decide on action depending on what it learns from the Foreign Ministry and other sources.

Nice is a popular summer vacation destination for Japanese, and the ritzy Bastille Day fireworks display is an annual highlight in the calendar.

In the city on Friday, newspapers reported a mixture of defiance and despair. As dawn broke, small groups of tourists sat on their baggage as they looked for taxis to take them to the airport, Britain’s The Guardian newspaper said.

Information from Kyodo, AP added