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'Belgium has gone into lockdown'

March 22, 2016 20:09 IST

Kumar Gaurav, the second secretary at the Indian embassy in Brussels tells Rediff.com’s Vaihayasi Pande Daniel that the Belgian government has closed off its borders and shut down its entire transport system.

 

Brussels’ transport system has gone into lockdown and foreign governments have warned their citizens to be vigilant, following three explosions – two at the airport and one at a metro station -- in the city on Tuesday, killing over 30 people and injuring 100 others.

Even as the city reels from the terror attacks, Kumar Gaurav, the second secretary at the Indian embassy in Brussels, speaks of how a high alert has been sounded. “All of Belgium has been put under lockdown. Everything is on hold; flights have been diverted away from the airport, the entire public transport system -- including the Metro -- has also been closed,” he said.

He further added that for the first time the Belgian capital went on its highest alert -- level 4. Borders with France and Netherlands have also been closed. Gaurav added that people have been asked to stay indoors.

Following the attacks, Belgium’s Prime Minister Charles Michel said his country had been plunged into a “dark moment” after suicide blasts rocked the capital.

“What we feared has happened -- we were hit by blind attacks,” he said, adding, “This is a dark moment for our nation. We need calm and solidarity.”

Speaking of the frantic callers, especially Indians trying to find about their loved ones, the second secretary said, “We are flooded with calls from everywhere. We have also set up a 24 hour helpline. We have been updating whatever information we have been getting. I don’t know if I can get home in the evening. I don’t think I will be able to return before 10 or 12 in the night.”

He added that in light of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit on March 30, there were a lot of meetings scheduled and all of that has now gone haywire. “It’s a very, very difficult situation.”

When asked if the PM’s visit is on as per schedule, Gaurav said that Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Vikas Swarup had not indicated otherwise. “We have not received any other news. So, we hope it will continue as schedule. We haven’t received any statement from External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj.”

Regarding the Jet Airways crew members, who suffered minor injures, Gaurav said that people from the embassy had visited them in the hospital. He added that a girl, was injured in the blast at the airport and was injured, but he didn’t know the exact situation. 

“As of now, we have no information about any other Indians injured. We were in the embassy at the time of the explosion at Maelbeek – the metro site. The entire embassy family is safe. We have been getting calls from many Indians in Brussels saying they are also safe.”

Image: Belgian soldiers patrol outside the European Commission headquarters during high level security alert following the morning explosions in Brussels. Photograph: Vincent Kessler/Reuters

Vaihayasi Pande Daniel / Rediff.com