Brussels terror attacks: At least 30 dead after suicide bombing and explosions at airport and Metro station

Photos showed passengers running from the terminal building as smoke rose poured out of smashed windows

Lizzie Dearden
Tuesday 22 March 2016 08:17
An injured woman at Brussels Airport after the explosions on Tuesday morning
An injured woman at Brussels Airport after the explosions on Tuesday morning

At least 30 people are feared dead and many wounded after a suspected suicide bombing and explosions at Brussels Airport and a Metro station in the Belgian capital.

Witnesses said the airport blasts happened shortly before 8am local time (7am GMT) in the departure hall near the check-in desks for American Airlines and Brussels Airlines.

Shortly afterwards, another explosion was reported at the Maalbeek (Maelbeek) station, near the European Council headquarters and other EU buildings. The capital's entire public transport system was being shut down.

The Belga news agency reported that shots were fired before the explosions and shouting was heard in Arabic. But a witness, David Crunelle, said he did not hear "Islamic sentences".

The explosion reportedly took place in the Departures lounge, beyond airport security areas.

Authorities have not released a statement confirming final casualty figures but Maggie de Block, the health minister, said 11 people were killed and 81 injured in twin explosions at the airport.

Brussels' STIB transport authority said that at least 15 people were killed and 55 wounded at Maalbeek station but added that the toll was "provisional".

A Sky News journalist who was checking in at the time said he heard two very large explosions before being moved away from the area and that speculation of a terror attack was spreading.

An American couple, Andrew and Denise Brandt, said they felt the blast "like a wave" as they shopped on the other side of security barriers, before hundreds of people started running towards them.

Brussels airport explosion

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

“It was atrocious," he said. “There was blood everywhere, injured people, bags everywhere. We were walking in the debris. It was a war zone.”

Belgium's federal prosecutor told local broadcasters that a suicide bomber was responsible for at least one of the explosions.

A spokesperson confirmed three explosions in total - two at Brussels Airport and one in the subway station Maelbeek.

Footage showed passengers running from the terminal building as smoke poured through smashed windows.

The airport, which was evacuated, has been closed to all departures and arrivals as investigations continue. Rail services have been suspended.

A spokesperson for Brussels Airport said: "There have been two explosions at the airport. Building is being evacuated. Don't come to the airport area.

"All airport operations have been suspended until further notice. Passengers that are still located in other area's in the airport are asked to remain calm and wait for further information."

The Belgian interior minister, Jan Jambon, said the national terror alert would be raised to its maximum level of four in the wake of the explosions.

Video shows aftermath of Brussels airport explosions

Charles Michel, the Prime Minister, said the government was following the situation "minute by the minute" and that victims and bystanders were the priority.

A spokesperson for American Airlines said: “We are aware of an incident at the Brussels airport departure hall and are taking care of our customers, employees and contractors. At this time, all of our employees and contractors are accounted for with no reported injuries.

"American Airlines flight 751 (from Brussels to Philadelphia) has been cancelled for today. When operations at the airport resume, we will re-accommodate our customers."

Brussels has been under increased security measures since November's Paris attacks and has seen several operations in recent weeks linked to the hunt for Salah Abdeslam, who was caught on Friday.

Belgium's national crisis centre said all Metro stations, trains and public transport systems were being shut down in Brussels, urging residents to stay at home.

Meanwhile, EU institutions including those headquartered near Maalbeek station in Brussels were put on alert level orange, seeing meetings cancelled and access restricted and federal buildings were evacuated.

As armed police and soldiers patrolled the streets, two men were filmed being detained at gunpoint outside the Bruxelles-Nord railway station, which was closed following the explosions.

Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament, wrote on Twitter: “My thoughts with Brussels and its citizens after these heinous attacks.”

Smoke rising from the Maalbeek underground, in Brussels, following a blast at the station close to the capital's European quarter

Airports across Europe were increasing precautions this morning, including at Gatwick and Heathrow, which said there would be a "high visibility" police presence.

David Cameron said he would be chairing an emergency Cobra meeting with senior ministers and advisers later on Tuesday morning.

The Foreign Office is advising British citizens to follow the instructions of Belgian security services and to remain vigilant in crowded areas.

The official threat to the UK from international terrorism has stood at "severe" - indicating that an attack is “highly likely'' - since August 2014.

Are you in Brussels? Contact or call +44 0203 615 2419.

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