Sunday 17 December 2017

People ran past, shouting 'there's a bomb, you must run' - Irish student

Passengers are evacuated from Zaventem airport after the bomb attack. Photo: Getty
Passengers are evacuated from Zaventem airport after the bomb attack. Photo: Getty

Wayne O'Connor, Ryan Nugent and Robin Schiller

Irish people in Brussels spoke of how they cheated death after the terror attacks.

Thousands of Irish people live and work in the Belgian capital and many of them were in the city's Zaventem Airport and Maelbeek metro station yesterday.

Luke Mac an Bhaird (22), a student from Galway studying in Belgium, was waiting to board a flight home when the bomb went off in the airport.

"People were sprinting past me, shouting 'there's a bomb, you've got to run'," he said. "It was so surreal. I got up quickly and started moving with the crowd."

As chaos ensued and airport staff desperately tried to evacuate passengers from the building, many of them were forced out on to the tarmac to escape next to the airplanes.Some passengers were afraid more blasts were imminent.

"We were at the tunnel that leads out to the runway and people started shouting and telling everyone to run again.

"When we got back out onto the tarmac, it was still terrifying because people were still shouting at us to run, so we didn't know what to do. We could only assume the worst."

He said he "wasn't far from the blast".

"When the staff started shouting the words that should never be shouted at an airport - 'there's a bomb' - everything kind of went slow motion. I realised the severity of it and that I just needed to follow the orders."

Ross Elwood, a policy adviser to MEP Deirdre Clune, had just left the Maelbeek station on his way to work in the European Parliament when the second explosion happened.

"The bomb had gone off at the airport and I was listening to the reports when I got on to the metro. I noticed it was very quiet on the train.

"Rush hour on the metro is about 8.30am and before that it is quiet so I did think to myself 'I don't think they'll do it now'.

"The first I saw was when there was smoke coming from the train station."

Fine Gael MEP Seán Kelly said an intern from his office was caught up in the blast. "She was in the station when the bomb went off," he said.

"She could feel her face alight and she has burns on her face. Then the lights went out and she had to make her way out."

His party colleague Mairead McGuinness said yesterday's events brought her back to the troubles in Northern Ireland.

"Because Ireland has had a bit of trouble, it does resonate. We are all stopping in the corridor saying how terrible it is and none of us have an answer.

"I am from Ardee (Co Louth), near the Border, and it has brought me back to those times of hearing the bombs going off and bodies being thrown all over the place."

Publican Seamus McCarthy, from Galway, has lived in Brussels for more than 12 years and said the city had been left "paralysed" by the terror attack.

"With the experience of Paris, I was pretty sure that after the airport there was a strong possibility of more bombs; we knew there would be something more happening quickly. There is also a lot of anger in people living here as well as frustration. Hopefully we can get back to normal soon."

The Department of Foreign Affairs said there had been no Irish casualties but warned people travelling to Belgium to exercise extreme caution.

Irish Independent

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