Feargus O'Sullivan is a contributing writer to CityLab, covering Europe. His writing focuses on housing, gentrification and social change, infrastructure, urban policy, and national cultures. He has previously contributed to The Guardian, The Times, The Financial Times, and Next City, among other publications.
Dozens are dead in blasts at the city’s airport and a metro station, according to the latest reports.
2.30pm.: Raids on an address in the North Brussels neighbourhood of Schaerbeek have uncovered a detonating device containing nails and an Islamic State flag, according to fresh reports from the Belgian Prosecutor’s Office.
1.02 pm.: Brussels Airport CEO Arnaud Feist has confirmed that a third bomb was discovered at the airport, but was neutralised by police.
11:26 a.m.: The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attacks, according to a group that monitor terrorist groups.
9:03 a.m.: Brussels Airport and metro system have been hit by multiple explosions Tuesday morning. The attacks have caused a substantial, but as yet not fully confirmed number of deaths and injuries. At present, the full story of this morning’s attacks are still emerging, but these are the most up-to-date details we have.
Attack at Brussels Airport
Shortly after 8 a.m., the city’s Zaventem Airport was rocked by two blasts in its departure lounge. Shattering windows and filling the hall with smoke, the attack has according to the latest reports so far caused 14 deaths and at least 81 injuries. According to Belgian broadcasters a suicide bomber was responsible for detonating the devices which caused the destruction. Photographs and footage of the assault are currently filtering through—here is the scene outside the airport terminal as people escaped the scene
Images from the terminal building show substantial damage to the interior
Explosions at Maelbeek Metro Station
Thirty minutes later, another explosion occurred at Brussels’ Maelbeek Metro Station, a key stop for commuters to Brussels’ European Quarter. According to Brussels’ transit authority, STIB, at least 20 people have died and 55 more seriously injured as a result of the blast, which occurred during the busiest period of rush hour. A journalist for European News Site Euractiv took this footage of passengers being evacuated from a metro train waiting to enter the station.
This was the scene a short while ago, between the Arts-Lois and Maelbeek metro stations in Brussels. pic.twitter.com/aTZjqsF7Gt— Evan Lamos (@evanlamos) March 22, 2016
In the immediate aftermath, rumors of other attacks on Brussels’ metro system circulated, but have since been discounted. It’s believed, however, that police carried out a controlled explosion on the city’s Rue De La Loi, on which Maelbeek Metro Station is located.
Brussels on Lockdown
Following the attacks, Brussels has locked down fast. The Airport, Metro and bus systems have all been closed. Flights heading for Brussels Airport that are already in the air have been diverted to regional airports and all trains in and out of the city cancelled. Streets near the Maelbeek metro station have also been closed off. Students have been confined to their school buildings and France has greatly tightened controls at its border with Belgium, where it plans to deploy an extra 1,600 officers.
Security measures have also been stepped up at the Dutch and German frontiers. The cellphone network reportedly remains overloaded, and official advice is for people in the Brussels area to communicate by text rather than call. Earlier, the Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel addressed the nation deploring the attacks and confirming the thoughts of many—that Brussels’ had been dreading just such an attack for some time. So far, no one has claimed responsibility for the attacks, but with the capture of Paris attacker Salah Abdeslam in Brussels on March 19, a connection to Islamic extremism seems highly likely.