Panic gripped Brussels airport after two explosions ripped through the facility and another was reported at a subway system. At least 20 people were killed in the attack that left a trail of destruction and came just days after the prime suspect in the November Paris attacks was arrested in the city.
Zach Mouzoun, who arrived on a flight from Geneva about 10 minutes before the first blast, told BFM television that the second, louder explosion brought down ceilings and ruptured pipes, mixing water with blood from victims.
“It was atrocious. The ceilings collapsed,” he said. “There was blood everywhere, injured people, bags everywhere.
“We were walking in the debris. It was a war scene,” he said.
All flights were cancelled, arriving planes were diverted and security was tightened at all Paris airports. Belgium’s terror alert level was raised to maximum.
Near the entrance to the Maelbeek subway station, not far from the headquarters of the European Union, rescue workers set up a makeshift treatment centre in a local pub.
Dazed and shocked morning travellers streamed from the metro entrances as police tried to set up a security cordon.
“The metro was leaving Maelbeek station for metro when there was a really loud explosion,” said Alexandre Brans, 32, wiping blood from his face. “It was panic everywhere. There were a lot of people in the metro.”
First responders ran through the street outside with two people on stretchers, their clothes badly torn.
The explosions at the airport hit at the middle of the busiest time there. Smoke was seen billowing out of the terminal.
Amateur videos on France’s i-Tele television showed passengers, including a child with a backpack, dashing out of the terminal in different directions as they tugged luggage.
Another image showed a security officer patrolling inside a hall with blown-out paneling and what appeared to be ceiling insulation covering the floor.
“I knew it was an explosion because I’ve been around explosions before,” said Denise Brandt, an American woman interviewed by Sky television.
“I felt the explosion, the way it feels through your body. And we just looked at each other and I said ‘Let’s go this way.’ It was over there. There was just this instinct to get away from it. Then we saw people running, crying, toward us. So I knew we were going in the right direction and away from it. “
With three runways in the shape of a “Z,” the airport connects Europe’s capital to 226 destinations around the world and handled nearly 23.5 million passengers in 2015.
Passengers were led onto the tarmac and the crisis center urged people not to come to the airport.
The explosions took place only days after Salah Abdeslam, the prime suspect in the November 13 Paris attacks that killed 130 people, was arrested in Brussels.