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This article was first published 8 years ago  » News » Terror in Brussels: 35 dead as explosions hit airport and metro

Terror in Brussels: 35 dead as explosions hit airport and metro

Last updated on: March 23, 2016 01:39 IST
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Thirty-five people have been killed and over 200 injured in Brussels after a series of terror attacks struck the city’s airport and a metro station near the European Union headquarters.

Witnesses described apocalyptic scenes with blood and ‘dismembered bodies everywhere’ after two blasts detonated near the American Airlines check-in desk at Brussels Airport in a suspected suicide bombing. 

IMAGE: Broken windows seen at the scene of explosions at Zaventem airport near Brussels, Belgium. Photograph: Francois Lenoir/Reuters

Then 79 minutes later, at least 20 people were killed when a blast hit a Metro station just 400 metres from the EU headquarters in the city centre.

At the airport, there were reports of a firefight between police and the attackers who shouted in Arabic moments before detonating their bombs.

The blasts sent shockwaves through the terminal building, shattering windows and knocking roof tiles off the ceiling as terrified passengers ran for their lives.

The explosions have left countries worldwide reeling, with security placed on high alert, flights cancelled, Eurostar services suspended and France’s border with Belgium shut down.

IMAGE: A soldier walks through debris after two explosion rocked a terminal building at Brussels Airport. Photograph: Jef Versele/Twitter

Two suspects were arrested a mile from the Maelbeek metro station around 11am as hundreds of troops and police flooded the streets of Brussels in the hunt for members of the terror cell.

Soldiers have been also been deployed at the airport and other key locations across Brussels as Belgium raised security to its maximum level.

The bombings come just a day after the Belgium interior minister warned of possible revenge attacks after the arrest of Paris massacre suspect Salah Abdeslam in the city on Friday. 

“There have been two explosions at the airport. Building is being evacuated. Don’t come to the airport area,” the airport said on Twitter, as police cars and rescue vehicles rushed to the scene.

“All airport operations have been suspended until further notice,” it said.

IMAGE: People wrapped in blankets leave the scene of explosions at Zaventem airport near Brussels. Photograph: Francois Lenoir/Reuters

The Belga news agency reported that shots were fired and shouts in Arabic were heard before the two explosions. Some reports say it was a suicide attack.

The blasts come as Abdeslam, Europe’s most wanted man, remains in a high-security prison in Belgium following his arrest last week in the gritty Brussels neighbourhood of Molenbeek, just around the corner from his family home.

Belgium's Foreign Minister Didier Reynders said at the weekend that Abdeslam -- believed to have played a key logistical role in the carnage in Paris -- had been planning some sort of new attack

IMAGE: Wounded passengers at Brussels airport  Photo: @tabagari/Twitter

Owen Li, a financial services worker from London, told the BBC he was in the affected check-in area 30 minutes before the explosions. “I was eating my breakfast and then suddenly everyone was running towards us. People didn't know what to do. They thought it was just an exercise. Some still stayed at the restaurant but slowly people realised it was real.”

Pavel Ohal, who was travelling with his wife and son, aged two, told The Telegraph: “We were standing in line waiting to check in.

“There was a huge explosion and people fell down all around me. My papers blew out of my hands. I turned around and there was a fire on the floor and small fires all around. And a lot of very badly injured people. My son was cut in the head when the ceiling came down.”

Zach Mouzoun, who arrived on a flight from Geneva about 10 minutes before the first airport blast, told France's BFM television that the second louder explosion brought down ceilings and ruptured pipes, mixing water with blood from victims.

“It was atrocious. The ceilings collapsed,” he said. “There was blood everywhere, injured people, bags everywhere.”

“We were walking in the debris. It was a war scene.”

World leaders react

IMAGE: People leave the scene of explosions at Zaventem airport near Brussels. Photograph: Francois Lenoir/Reuters

Security has been stepped up at Gatwick and Heathrow airports and the UK Foreign Office has advised British nationals to avoid crowded areas in Belgium

Sweden’s Prime Minister Stefan Lofven branded the blasts an “attack against democratic Europe”, while British Prime Minister David Cameron tweeted: “I am shocked and concerned by the events in Brussels. We will do everything we can to help.”

France has also stepped up security. President Francois Hollande has held a cabinet meeting to discuss the Belgian explosions.

IMAGE: People fleeing the airport as plumes of smoke emerge after the explosions

Russian President Vladimir Putin said the blasts “show once more that terrorism knows no borders and threatens people all over the world”, according to a Kremlin statement.

“The fight against this evil requires vital international cooperation,” he added.

It was also reported that two Jet Airways crew members were injured in the blasts at Brussels airport even as the authorities have relocated the airline’s passengers in Brussels to a safe location.

“Two of our staff have been injured and are receiving medical care,” a senior airline official said.

IMAGE: Another blast took place at a metro around 90 minutes after a blast took place at the airport. Photograph: Reuters TV

IMAGE: Emergency personnel are seen at the scene of a blast outside a metro station in Brussels. Photograph: Reuters TV

Eiffel Tower to be lit in colours of Belgian flag

The EiffelTower will be lit up on Tuesday evening with Belgium’s national colours in solidarity with the victims of the Brussels attacks, Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo announced.

The symbol of Paris will be bathed in black, yellow and red light in homage to “the victims, their loved ones and all the people of Belgium,” she said in a statement following the attacks that killed at least 26.

“Today Europe is targeted at her heart,” Hidalgo said. “Once more it is basic values that are attacked: freedom, humanism, tolerance and unshakeable commitment to democracy.”

Moving tribute to Brussels

A touching cartoon following the attack in Brussels from the French newspaper Le Monde. That's France consoling Belgium.  

IMAGE: The scene at Brussels airport immediately after the explosion Photograph: Pavel Ohal

IMAGE: Airport workers embrace as they leave the scene of explosions at Zaventem airport near Brussels. Photograph: Francois Lenoir/Reuters

PLEASE NOTE: Indians in Belgium can contact emergency numbers +32-26409140 +32-26451850 (PABX) & +32-476748575 (mobile)

-- With inputs from PTI

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