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'When they gave out bullet proof vests, I knew it was serious'

TWO Irishmen have revealed their shock at seeing bulletproof vests being handed out in Brussels.

The two friends from Galway, who were both caught up in the separate explosion sites, are hoping to return home by the weekend.

Kevin Lally (24), who passed by the Maelbeek Metro Station minutes before the fatal explosion which claimed 14 lives, described the panic that followed in his nearby office building.

"I work in The Commission, and I had only passed by the stop about 20 minutes before the explosion. The odd time I might pop in for a coffee or get the metro if I'm feeling lazy, but I didn't on Tuesday thankfully.

"We were standing outside the office when the bomb went off, and at first the security guards didn't want to let us back into the building," the Galway native told the Herald.

"We eventually managed to get back inside, and there was a security worker with about four or five bullet proof vests handing them out to his colleagues.

"It was then when we realised how serious it was."

Luke Mac an Bhaird (22) was waiting to board a flight back to Ireland in Zaventem Airport when he noticed people hysterically fleeing the terminal shouting 'There's a bomb, you have to run'.

Speaking to the Herald last night, Luke described how he was "lucky" not to have been seriously injured.

"It's only when you have time to sit down and reflect and think about what actually happened that you realise how lucky you are," he said.

"On the day it was all very panicked, but yesterday it really occurred to me what actually happened and how close I was to the explosions."

Luke previously described the terror that occurred in the terminal at Zaventem Airport.

"I was at my gate and people were sprinting past me, shouting 'there's a bomb, there's a bomb, you've got to run, you've got to run'. It was so surreal."

Both men are hoping to get back to Ireland for Easter.

Meanwhile, in Dublin, President Michael D Higgins has described the Brussels terror attacks as "an incredible blow" to civilisation, but urged people not to allow these acts "to establish fear".