Gurdwara near airport helped hundreds after Brussels blasts

  • Prasun Sonwalkar, Hindustan Times, Brussels
  • Updated: Apr 01, 2016 14:02 IST
Granthi Baljit Singh (extreme left) and others who provided food, clothes and medicines to stranded passengers after the March 22 blasts at Brussels airport. (Prasun Sonwalkar/HT Photo)

Volunteers of a gurdwara swung into action soon after two blasts spread death and panic at Brussels airport on March 22, providing food, clothes, medicines and hope to hundreds of stranded passengers, including many Indians in transit.

The Gurdwara Guru Nanak Sahib in Velvoorde, located less than 10 km from the airport, received calls from London and India soon after news of the blasts spread, and promptly opened its doors and resources to help.

“We contacted local officials and offered to house passengers in the gurdwara and help in any way possible,” Jasvir Singh, the gurdwara prabandhak, told Hindustan Times.

“But the passengers were not allowed outside the airport. So we arranged food, clothes and medicines, particularly for children.”

Baljit Singh, the gurdwara’s granthi, said: “We were contacted through phone and social media. The ‘sangat’ responded promptly. Initially we were not allowed to meet the passengers, but there was pressure from the passengers too, who wanted to meet us.”

More than 30 people were killed and scores injured by three suicide blasts at the airport and a metro station in the Belgian capital. The attacks were claimed by the Islamic State.

Following the two blasts at the airport, nearly 250 passengers were stranded, most of them Indians who were in transit to destinations in the US and Canada or bound for India.

There were reports of growing resentment about the lack of help and information among Indian passengers – who did not have access to their belongings in the checked-in luggage – when the gurdwara reached them.

“We were able to help for two days after the blasts, before the passengers were allowed to leave on special flights. Our doors are always open for ‘seva’ for whoever is in need,” Baljit Singh said.

The Gurdwara Guru Nanak Sahib, located in a quiet neighbourhood on Lange Molenstraat, is one of seven in Brussels. Established more than 20 years ago, it is the base for more than 150 families in Velvoorde and neighbouring areas. A gurdwara is also being established in Antwerp.

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