‘It was chaotic and hysterical’: SUTD student relives attack in Nice
By Xabryna Kek Posted 16 Jul 2016 08:45 Updated 16 Jul 2016
Soldiers, police officers and firefighters walk near dead bodies on the Promenade des Anglais seafront in the French Riviera town of Nice on Jul 15, 2016, after a van drove into a crowd watching a fireworks display. (Photo: AFP)
SINGAPORE: Ms Monica Nathalia Haryanto was at a concert along a beach in Nice on Thursday (Jul 14) when people around her started yelling and screaming. “It was chaotic and hysterical,” she told Channel NewsAsia on Saturday morning.
The student from Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) was at the beach with two of her other friends who, like her, were on a three-week summer exchange programme arranged by the school, when a 19-tonne truck ploughed into a crowd who had gathered to watch a Bastille Day fireworks display on the nearby Promenade des Anglais.
“I was about 1km or 2km from the start of the attack,” the second-year computer science student said. “We ran a bit but stopped for a while since we didn’t know what was happening.”
The 20-year-old added that there was no one who was able to speak English or inform them of the situation then. “After that, we saw a police car coming and they told all of us to run,” she said.
As of Saturday morning, French authorities confirmed that 84 people were killed in the attack, including 10 children. Nearly 190 others were injured - 50 of them in such critical condition that French President Francois Hollande described them as being "between life and death".
Ms Monica said she was not injured. “We got pushed a bit but my friends and I made it into the city,” she said. “We ran (through) the alleys and (the) neighbourhood. When people ran back and forth, we did the same too. We then found a nice local who offered us his place to hide until we could assess the situation.
“The thing is, we didn’t know what was happening, and most of the tourists didn’t,” she added. “So, people would suddenly run from the direction that we were running to or towards our direction. Our assumption was that we had been attacked (from) all directions.”
As Ms Monica and her friends fled the attack, all she could think of was her loved ones at the time. “I thought the city was attacked by gunmen,” she said. “It was scary; I just thought of my family back home.”
Another SUTD student, who was at the Promenade des Anglais, was injured in the attack. Mr Esmond Chuah, a third-year Malaysian student, sustained a fracture in his back and is in hospital. According to his father Mr Chuah Tze Leng, a CT scan run by the hospital also showed trauma in his lungs and stomach.
SUTD said the injured student is in stable condition and in contact with his parents. It added that the other 11 students on its summer programme in Nice are safe and accounted for. The university told Channel NewsAsia that the group comprises seven Singaporeans, two Permanent Residents, and a Malaysian, a Vietnamese and an Indonesian national.
SUTD added that the university is “in contact with all relevant authorities, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, embassies”. “We are working with the International SOS to provide on-ground support and counselling,” said SUTD President Professor Thomas Magnanti. “We are also doing all we can to support and update the students and their parents.”
Ms Monica and her school mates have been told to remain in the hostel for now. “The school and the study programme I’m in also advised us to do the same. We got counselling from International SOS and the school tried their best to assist us,” she said.
“We're all now safe and sound in the hostel, just waiting for the next announcement. The organiser of the study programme - on request from SUTD - took care of us well and provided food for us as the area is currently in a lockdown now.”
France has declared three days of national mourning from Saturday, and extended the state of emergency which has been in force since the Nov 13 Paris attacks.
SUTD’s Nice summer programme began on Jul 3 and will end next week. “After the programme, I wanted to travel around Europe until Aug 10. But, right now, I am not too sure anymore,” said Ms Monica.
She revealed that some of the participants on the exchange programme are still missing. “They're from other countries. One of my teammates from UC Berkeley is missing,” she said.
“I just want people back in Singapore to not worry much about us because we’re safe and OK. We're more concerned about the missing people and those who lost their lives. It was scary at that point of time indeed but we are now just feeling blessed,” she added.
According to Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), a Singaporean is among those who were injured. The ministry said that his injuries were not life-threatening and that it was in close contact with his family.
"The Singapore Embassy in Paris has dispatched an officer to Nice to provide consular assistance to the Singaporean and his family," a spokesperson said.
MFA added that it was also helping the Malaysian student from SUTD.