Multiple blasts in Brussels; Airport and Metro targetted

RSTV Bureau
BRUSSELS: People walk away from Brussels airport after explosions rocked the facility in Brussels, Belgium Tuesday March 22, 2016. Photo - PTI/AP

BRUSSELS: People walk away from Brussels airport after explosions rocked the facility in Brussels, Belgium Tuesday March 22, 2016.
Photo – PTI/AP

At least 26 people have been killed and several left wounded after multiple attack rocked Brussels early on Tuesday. According to the reports thus far, the string of attack began with the twin explosion at the capital city’s Zaventem Airport followed by blasts at a city metro station. Belgium has raised its terror threat to the maximum level.

The blasts have come four days after the dramatic arrest in Brussels on Friday of Salah Abdeslam, the prime suspect in the Paris terror attacks that killed 130 people in November, after four months on the run.

First incident of explosion was reported around 8:00 am local time (1330 IST) with twin blasts inside the main hall of the busy Zaventem Airport — one of the busy airports for several trans-Atlantic flights. Soon after city’s Maalbeek metro station came under attack with explosion near the European Union’s main buildings just as commuters were making their way to work in rush hour.

According to the reported accounts of several eyewitnesses, airport morphed into a scene of chaos with passengers fleeing in panic and a thick plume of smoke rising from the main terminal building. Windows of the departure hall was smashed and the ceiling tiles were shattered to the floor as a result of a powerful twin explosion.

“There have been two explosions at the airport. Building is being evacuated. Don’t come to the airport area,” the airport authorities shared on the micro-blogging site Twitter, as police cars and rescue vehicles rushed to the scene.

“All airport operations have been suspended until further notice,” the authorities said.

Brussels: Explosions at Brussels airport in Belgium Tuesday, March 22, 2016. Photo - PTI

Brussels: Explosions at Brussels airport in Belgium Tuesday, March 22, 2016.
Photo – PTI

Though the group or suspects behind the dastardly attack is yet to be ascertained, Belgium Interior Minister Jan Jambon announced that country’s terror threat level had been raised from three to a maximum of four.

In a related development, airports in neighbouring France, Germany and the Netherlands as well as Britain swiftly boosted security in response.

The serial attack has triggered a transport shutdown in Brussels, with all flights halted in and out of the airport and the city’s metro, tram and bus services suspended. European Union staff in Brussels, where the 28-nation bloc has its headquarters, were told by the authorities to stay indoors or at home.

Strongly condemning the attack, Prime Minister Narendra Modi shared on Twitter, “News from Brussels is disturbing. The attacks are condemnable. Condolences to families of the deceased. May those injured recover quickly.”

PM Modi is scheduled to visit Belgium to attend the India-EU Summit on March 30.

Jet Airways’ two Indian crew members were also injured in the blasts at Brussels airport. According to the authorities, both of them are safe and receiving medical care.

“I am in touch with Mr Manjeev Puri Indian Ambassador in Brussels. He has informed me that so far there is no report of any Indian casualty… However, an Indian lady crew member of Jet Airways is injured. She has been rushed to the hospital,” Union External Affairs minister Sushma Swaraj wrote on Twitter.

The airline said for further information passengers can contact Jet Airways contact centre in India 1800225522, 1-877-8359538 (The United States) and 08081011199 (The United Kingdom).

(With inputs from the PTI)