A series of explosions across Brussels has left Belgium in shock. This is what we know so far...
Reports began breaking at around 7am (UK time) of two loud explosions at Zaventem airport, 15 kilometres outside Brussels.
Eyewitnesses described glass shattering and smoke filling the main terminal. ‘We heard the walls shake and dust began falling from the ceiling,’ said Sky News reporter, Alex Rossi, who was there at the time. ‘There’s no doubt in my mind that the explosion happened in the building.’
According to Anna Ahronheim, Defense Correspondent for i24 News, a suicide bomber had entered the terminal, before detonating an explosive vest. The number of casualties is still unconfirmed, but reports suggest up to 13 individuals could have been killed, and more than 20 others injured.
As all flights were grounded – and any travellers were urged to stay away from the airport – reports of up to four more explosions across Brussels began to break on Twitter. Meanwhile, Belgium authorities raised the country’s terror threat to ‘maximum’, and confirmed a bomb had been detonated at Maelbeek metro station – close to the EU building.
Local media are confirming that at least 15 individuals were killed in the explosion at Maelbeek (pronounced ‘mal-bec’), and judging from the images emerging from the scene on social media (which we’ve chosen not to publish here), the bomb appears to have detonated within one of the train carriages. Reports are claiming up to 80 individuals could be injured.
At 10am, Michael Horowitz, Head of Business Development for the Levantine Group, tweeted that another explosion had been heard in Rue de la Loi, near the European Commission – clarifying that it wasn’t certain if it was another attack, or the controlled detonation of a suspicious object.
Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel released a statement just before 11am. ‘What we’ve feared has happened, we were hit by unforeseen attacks,’ he said, adding that there was nothing to link the attacks to Salah Abdeslam, who was behind the Paris Attacks in November, and was arrested last week. ‘This is a dark moment for our nation. We need calm and solidarity. We know there are many dead, many injured.’
Saint-Pierre University Hospital in Brussels is asking people in the area to donate blood following the attacks.
The view of Maelbeek from the European Commission. Picture credit: Francesca Jenner
We spoke to Francesca Jenner, 28, a communications consultant at the European Commission, who works next to Maelbeek station.
‘It’s so lucky I didn’t take the metro this morning. I was running late and got a lift into work with my boyfriend – we had the radio on in the car and that’s when i heard about the explosions at Zaventem. At first we thought we’d misheard. We were totally shocked and upset and immediately worked out if we knew anyone travelling today – thankfully not. But it’s getting close to the Easter holidays so there’s lots of people travelling home at the moment.
‘I work right in the centre of the EU district where the metro explosions went off. When i got to the office i was feeling worried but still fairly calm. It may sound strange but the airport is on the outskirts of town so it felt a bit removed at that point. I was talking about the awful events at the airport with colleagues when one of them got a text message from her boyfriend saying a bomb had just gone off at Maelbeek metro station – that’s when the reality really hit. It feels different when it’s happening outside your door. I immediately checked the Belgian news sites to find out more.
‘My office is two minutes walk from Maelbeek metro so I could see smoke from the blast, and lots of people huddled together on the street from the window. There have been sirens blaring outside all morning and helicopters flying overhead. We’ve been told it’s not safe to leave the building so we’re basically on lockdown inside the office. Just been informed by a senior official there’s a lot of military staff outside on the street who are looking for something or someone… Hoping there aren’t any more attacks coming… People at work are mostly staying calm, but everyone is talking about what’s going on and constantly checking the news for updates and any information.’
We’ll continue to update this as events develop.
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