Wednesday 29 March 2017

Brussels in lockdown after explosions rock airport and Metro

Handout photo taken with permission from the Twitter feed of @davidcrunelle of the scene at Brussels Airport after two explosions were heard
Handout photo taken with permission from the Twitter feed of @davidcrunelle of the scene at Brussels Airport after two explosions were heard

Sarah Collins in Brussels

Brussels is in a state of panic and lockdown following a series of terror attacks.

Belgian federal police have confirmed two explosions at Brussels international airport, with witnesses at the scene reporting smoke rising from the departures terminal.

The cause of the explosions is not known.

Witnesses in Brussels city centre are also reporting smoke rising from Maalbeek metro station, near the EU institutions, and the evacuation of Brussels Central train station.

The police have not confirmed any casualties, but local media is quoting Belgian fire services saying that up to 17 people have been killed and many more injured.

The airport has been evacuated and police and airport authorities have warned people not to come to the area.

Train services to the airport, which is located in Zaventem, around 10km north of Brussels city centre, have been suspended and all flights have been diverted, the airport authority confirmed.

Witnesses quoted in the Belgian media have reported the blast happened near the American Airlines check-in desk at around 8am local time (7am Irish time).

Pictures from the scene show devastation in the arrivals hall, with windows blasted through and debris littering the floors.

Belgian prime minister Charles Michel has said via Twitter that the “absolute priority is now the victims”.

According to French-language state broadcaster RTBF, the terror alert level has been raised to level 4, the highest level possible.

The incident happened four days after the arrest of terror suspect Salah Abdeslam, who is accused of direct participation in the 13 November Paris terror attacks.

The attacks paralysed Brussels for weeks, with the army patrolling tourist centres and government institutions.

The atmosphere had eased after Christmas, but the arrest of Abdeslam and the latest airport attacks will throw the country into a renewed panic.

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