Belgian capital Brussels has been rocked by a series of explosions, with early reports confirming that at least 34 people have died and several dozen have been injured.
On Tuesday morning, two explosions took place at Brussels’ Zaventem Airport at 8 a.m. local time, causing heavy damage and several casualties, forcing authorities to shut down the airport indefinitely. Just as news was pouring in of the twin blasts, another explosion ripped through the city’s Maelbeek metro station, causing more casualties, according to the country’s public broadcaster, RTBF.
The European nation has now put the city on a maximum terror alert, according to the The Washington Post.
Although the details of the attacks are sketchy at this early stage, unconfirmed reports claimed that as many as 34 people have been killed in the blasts. The Belgian news agency Belga claimed that shots were fired and there were shouts in Arabic just before the explosions took place, although the veracity of that claim cannot be confirmed yet. While another Belgian news agency VRT has said the Brussels airport explosion was a suicide attack.
Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel convened national security advisers after the Brussels explosions and said the incidents are being treated as possible terrorist attacks. During a press conference, he called the attacks “blind, violent and cowardly.”
“We must face this challenge in solidarity, united, together,” he added.
[Update] Middle Eastern Islamist fundamentalist group ISIS, which also carried out the Paris attacks, has claimed responsibility for the Brussels attacks, according to a post by its affiliated Amaq Agency, reports NBC.
An amateur video uploaded on Twitter soon after the airport attack showed streams of panicked passengers running out of the airport shortly after the explosions occurred. One Mr. Ohal, who was travelling with his wife and son, aged two, said his son was cut on the head as a temporary ceiling at the airport came down as a result of the explosions.
“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.”
Meanwhile, at the Maelbeek metro station, which is one stop from the main offices of the European Commission, rescue workers tried setting up a makeshift treatment center in a pub. Shocked morning travelers streamed from the metro entrances as police tried to set up a security cordon, according to the Associated Press.
Alexandre Brans, 32, one of the morning travelers, said the station was full of commuters when the explosion took place.
“The Metro was leaving Maelbeek station for Schuman when there was a really loud explosion. It was panic everywhere. There were a lot of people in the metro.”
As the Belgian capital has been put on a maximum terror alert, residents have been told not to congregate at public spaces and even avoid try using mobile networks since they are being saturated.
The attack on Brussels comes days after a key suspect in last November’s Paris terror attack, Salah Abdeslam, was apprehended in the city after a shootout with the police on Friday. On Monday, Belgian interior minister Jan Jambon had said that the country was on high alert for a possible revenge attack following the capture of 26-year-old Abdeslam. “We know that stopping one cell can… push others into action. We are aware of it in this case,” he had told public radio just yesterday.
World leaders have taken to social media to condemn the attacks and express their solidarity with the victims.
As of now, people are being evacuated both from the airport and the metro station. Social media is full of images and videos of the Brussels explosions, in some of which victims can be seen drenched in blood. Bodies can be seen strewn across the floor in some of the images, which have not been included in this article because of their graphic imagery. They can be accessed by clicking here.
[AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert]