Explosions at Brussels airport and subway systems

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

At least 26 people, according to Belgian officials, have been killed and many more have been injured today following attacks on transport infrastructure in Brussels, the capital of Belgium. Authorities have stated one of the explosions, at approximately 08:00 (Central European Time, UTC+1) in the check-in area at Brussels Airport, was likely conducted by a suicide bomber. There was a subsequent attack at the Maelbeek/Maalbeek metro station, very close to the offices of the European Commission and the Council of the European Union.

Locations of the attacks in Brussels.
Image: Rauletemunoz.

Passengers at the metro station were forced to walk along tracks to escape the blast. The Brussels metro system has been shut down.

Jef Versele, a business traveller intending to fly to Rome, witnessed the events at the airport. In remarks to NBC News, he said, "There was dust everywhere, glass everywhere there was chaos. There were people on the floor everywhere. The roofing came down. It was quite a mess. [...] A lot of people were in panic. I saw a lot of blood, a lot of people were injured. People were crying, on the floor, covered by parts of the roofing. I saw a lot of leg injuries, a lot of people couldn't move anymore. There were quite a lot of people injured. In the departure hall — you saw people storming out, it was like run for your life."

File photograph of Maelbeek/Maalbeek metro station
Image: bsubway.net.

All flights to Brussels Airport have been diverted and the airport has been shut down. Eurostar has stopped the international train service from London and the train company Thalys have shut down their entire network.

Jan Jambon, the Belgian interior minister, said the country's alert level had been at maximum following the capture in Brussels of Salah Abdeslam, who is alleged to have been involved in the attacks in Paris on November 13, 2015.

Charles Michel, Belgium's Prime Minister, described the attacks as "blind, violent and cowardly" and a "dark moment for our country".

Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, said: "These attacks mark another low by the terrorists in the service of hatred and violence"

The French President, François Hollande, has held a cabinet meeting to discuss security. After the meeting, Hollande said "terrorists struck Brussels but it was Europe that was targeted". The French Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, said: "we are at war. We have been subjected for the last few months in Europe to acts of war."

British Prime Minister David Cameron has convened a COBRA meeting to discuss Britain's response. He said he was "shocked and concerned by the events in Brussels" and pledged Britain would do "everything we can to help". U.S. President Barack Obama has been briefed on the attack during his trip in Cuba. The U.S. Embassy in Brussels has advised U.S. citizens in Belgium to not use public transport and to stay where they are.