At least 13 people were killed when two massive explosions shattered the Zaventem airport only days after the arrest of the Paris terror attack suspect in Brussels. Scores of people were also injured in the blasts which took place one after the other just after 8 a.m., triggering a panic run from the airport and bringing down the false ceiling in a part of the departure hall, media reports said.
Even as Belgium immediately raised its terror alert to the maximum, a third explosion took place — at the main Metro station near the European Union building. Both the airport and the station were shut down.
At the Metro station too there were casualties as at least 10 people were killed in a blast at the Maalbeek metro station , the Belgium broadcaster VTM said.
BBC and most media outlets said several people were killed at the airport. Belgian broadcaster RTBF quoted hospital sources to say that 10 people had been killed and about 30 injured. Daily Mail of London put the death toll at 13. People, including passengers, were seen coming out of the airport building with blood on their faces.
There were no reports of Indian casualties, the government said in New Delhi.
Initial reports said the blasts were centred at the American Airlines check-in desk. But a later report said one explosion occurred on the runway and another at the departure area where public access was easy.
Belga news agency reported that shots were fired and shouts in Arabic were heard before the two blasts, BBC said.
Pictures showed the terminal windows blown out from the force of the explosion and plumes of smoke rising high into the sky. Video also showed terrified passengers running for their lives out of the terminal.
Sky News Middle East correspondent Alex Rossi, who was at the airport on his way to Tel Aviv, said: “I could feel the buildings move.”
The incident came as the Belgian capital was on a state of high alert following the arrest of Paris terror attack suspect Salah Abdeslam in the city last week.
Only on Monday, Belgium’s Interior Minister Jan Jambon said the country was braced for a possible revenge attack following the capture of the 26-year-old Abdeslam.
CNN quoted a tourist, Anthony Barrett, as saying he heard the explosions at about 8 a.m. from his hotel across the terminal building.
“When I opened the curtains and looked out, I could see people fleeing,” he told CNN.
He said he saw about 19 or 20 stretchers carrying people so far. Luggage trolleys were also being used to transport the wounded.
“It is clearly a very serious incident,” Barrett said.
Brussels airport said that there had been two explosions and the building was being evacuated. “Don’t come to the airport area,” it said in a tweet.
France is seeking AbdeslamÂ’s extradition so he can stand trial for his alleged role in the November 13 rampage of gunfire and suicide bombings that killed 130 people in Paris.
Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel said they were monitoring the situation minute-by-minute.
A Jet flight from Mumbai landed in Brussels at 7.11 a.m. (local time) and another, from Delhi, landed minutes after the explosion, at 8:08, according to information on Flightradar24 website. The airline said it was trying to ascertain the status of crew and passengers. The aircraft are safe, Jet Airways said in a statement.
External affairs ministry spokesman Vikas Swarup said he spoke to Indian ambassador Manjeev Singh Puri who said there were no reports of any Indian casualties. ( IANS)