At least two people including a child have been killed and up to 15 injured after a speeding car ploughed into a pedestrian area in the western German city of Trier, authorities say.

Witnesses said people screamed in panic and some were thrown into the air by the car as it crashed through the shopping zone today.

Police said several people had been killed, having earlier put the death toll at two, with more than 10 injured. The local newspaper, Trierischer Volksfreund, put the death toll at four, including a child, but police did not confirm that figure.

“We have arrested one person, one vehicle has been secured,” police said, adding that a 51-year-old German suspect from the Trier area was being questioned, police said.

Mayor Wolfram Leibe had rushed to the scene.

“We have a driver who ran amok in the city. We have two dead that we are certain of and up to 15 injured, some of them with the most severe injuries,” he told public broadcaster SWR.

“I just walked through the city centre and it was just horrible. There is a trainer lying on the ground, and the girl it belongs to is dead,” he told a news conference, with tears stopping him from speaking further.

He told broadcaster N-TV that people who saw the incident were “totally traumatised” and the street “looks a bit like after a war”.

Leibe said he did not know the motive for the incident, which shocked residents of Germany’s oldest town, founded by the Romans more than 2000 years ago.

The Trierischer Volksfreund quoted an eyewitness as saying a Range Rover was driving at high speed and people had been thrown through the air. It said the car had Trier plates.

It reported that people screamed in panic when the car drove through the street.

Officers were scouring the area in search of evidence, backed by police dressed in flak jackets and carrying rifles. On the streets, Christmas lights twinkled incongruously.

Truck attack

Germany has tightened security on pedestrian zones across the country since a truck attack on a Berlin Christmas market in 2016 that killed 12 people and injured dozens.

In October 2019, a man opened fire on a synagogue in the city of Halle. After failing to get into the building he went on a rampage outside, killing two people.

In February this year a racist gunman killed nine migrants in Hanau near Frankfurt before killing his mother and himself.

Only about a week later, a local man ploughed his car into a carnival parade in the town of Volkmarsen, injuring 61.

Germany has tightened measures to fight the coronavirus, with bars and restaurants closed, but shops and schools are still open.

“What happened in Trier is shocking,” Steffen Seibert, a spokesman for Chancellor Angela Merkel, said on Twitter.

“Our thoughts are with the relatives of the victims, with the numerous injured and with everyone who is currently on duty to care for the victims.”

– Reuters