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Amid Mourning In Nice, Residents Look For Ways To Pitch In

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Now we turn to another major story of the week - the truck driver who drove through crowds celebrating Bastille Day on the promenade in Nice, France. Today the Islamic State claimed the driver was, quote, "one of their soldiers," unquote. But investigators have yet to find anything linking him to the group.

Meanwhile, the city is still reeling. More than 80 people have died, and some 200 people were wounded in that attack on Thursday. Hospitals are still trying to save lives and identify many of the injured and the dead.

NPR's Daniel Estrin reports that residents of the French Riviera vacation city are pitching in to help.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: (Speaking French).

DANIEL ESTRIN, BYLINE: "Excuse me, madam," a young woman said to a medical staffer in Pasteur Hospital, where most of the wounded from the attack are being treated. We've been waiting to hear about our sister for days. What's happening?

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: (Speaking French).

ESTRIN: "Don't cry," the hospital staffer said in a hushed voice. Dozens are in this auditorium waiting to hear news about loved ones. There was a stack of yellow death certificates on a desk.

"We've been sleeping on the floor for days. Help us," the same woman said.

"It's hard to identify the victims," the staffer said. In some cases, their faces were smashed beyond recognition. The hospital staffer was helping console families, even when she had no answers to give them.

TAHAR MEJRI: (Screaming).

ESTRIN: This man, Tahar Mejri, got an answer. He was looking for his 4-year-old son, Killian (ph). Actually, a lot of people in Nice have been searching, sharing his photo on Facebook. This morning, he was told his son died. Outside the hospital, he raised his arms in the air and shrieked.

Up the road, Cimiez Hospital was getting ready to take in some patients from the crowded Pasteur Hospital. Nurse's assistant Allyson Colombari sat on a bench near the entrance in a daze. She rushed to the promenade on Thursday night.

ALLYSON COLUMBARI: (Speaking French).

ESTRIN: She said, it's a small city, but it's got great solidarity. Everyone is helping each other. Doctors and nurses have given their all. So have some taxi drivers who gave people free rides during the chaos. Others here have been looking for ways to help.

This afternoon, dozens of people lined up to donate blood at this mall. Over the last two days, at least 700 people came to donate, a spokesman of the blood center said.

At the front of the line was Mohammed Zrelli, a 38-year-old construction worker. He came with two other friends, all Tunisian, just like the attacker. Zrelli said they'd waited for more than two hours to give blood.

MOHAMMED ZRELLI: (Speaking French).

ESTRIN: He said, "we came to give our blood to help people and to show that Muslims, North Africans - we're not all the same. We're not terrorists. Islam doesn't tell us to do that."

Nice is France's second most visited city after Paris, so people are still out and about. Tourists mill down a quaint downtown alleyway of postcard stands and dry sausage stalls. Residents say it's quieter than usual.

But the flower shop was busy. The line stretched out to the street. Amanda Nutter was wrapping flowers for customers, mostly single white roses to be placed on the promenade in memory of the victims.

AMANDA NUTTER: It's as you would expect. It's like one massive - it's a big funeral. It's a funeral in remembrance, and it's affected the whole town.

ESTRIN: Buying flowers is a way people are taking part, too. Daniel Estrin, NPR News, Nice. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.