Brussels airport, subway hit by explosions, killing at least 34

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Authorities locked down the Belgian capital on Tuesday after explosions rocked the Brussels airport and subway system, killing at least 34 people and injuring many more, according to Belgian media and Belgian transport authorities.

Belgian Health Minister Maggie de Block said 14 people were killed intwin explosions at the Zaventem Airport near Brussels. She said earlier that 81 people were injured in the airport blasts.

A Brussels subway spokesman says 20 people were killed and 55 injured in an explosion at the Maelbeek train station.Belgium AttacksAn injured woman leaves the scene at Zaventem Airport near Brussels after explosions rocked the facility Tuesday morning. (David Crunelle/Associated Press)

Belgium’s federal prosecutor said that at least one of the explosions at the airport was likely caused by a suicide bomber. He earlier described the explosions as terror attacks.

“This is a black Tuesday for Belgium,” said Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion, speaking at a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. “Hearing the screams of children in the smoke of [the] Brussels metro only strengthens our resolve to combat terrorism in all its forms and increases our solidarity with the people of Belgium in the whole of Europe.”

Reuters reported that a witness said he heard shouts in Arabic shortly before two blasts struck the packed airport departures area.

A European security official in contact with Belgian police said least one and possibly two Kalashnikov rifles were found in the departure lounge at the Brussels airport after the attacks.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak about the ongoing investigation.

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel said “what we feared has happened” and said authorities are worried there will be more attacks.Airport evacuationPeople walk across a field as they are evacuated from Zaventem Airport in Brussels after the explosions. (Geert Vanden Wijngaert/Associated Press)

Speaking at a news conference in Brussels, Michel said “there are many dead, many injured” from the attacks earlier Tuesday at the airport and a subway station. He said border controls have been reinforced.

Michel said “we realize we face a tragic moment. We have to be calm and show solidarity.”

Security tightened across Europe

Belgium raised its terror alert to its highest level, diverting arriving planes and trains and ordering people to stay where they were. Airports across Europe tightened security.APTOPIX Belgium AttacksAn injured man is seen at the airport after the explosions. Brussels prosecutor’s office called the explosions at the airport and the metro station terror attacks. (Ketevan Kardava/Georgian Public Broadcaster/Associated Press)

The explosions came just days after the main suspect in the November Paris attacks was arrested in Brussels. After his arrest, Salah Abdeslam told authorities he had created a new network and was planning new attacks.

At the Brussels airport, two explosions splattered blood across the departure lounge and collapsed the ceiling. Witnesses told The Associated Press that one occurred at an excess baggage payment counter and the other near a Starbucks cafe.Brussels blastsThe blasts occurred at two locations in Brussels – at the Zaventum airport and at the Maelbeek subway station. (Reuters)

All flights were cancelled, and arriving planes and trains were diverted. Authorities told people in Brussels to stay where they were, bringing the city to a standstill. Airport security was also tightened in Paris, London and other European cities.

European security officials have been braced for a major attack for weeks, and warned that ISIS was actively preparing to strike. Abdeslam’s arrest on Friday heightened those fears, as investigators said many more people were involved in the Nov. 13 attacks that killed130 people in Paris than originally thought, and that some are still on the loose.Belgium RaidAt a news conference in Brussels, Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel said: ‘We realize we face a tragic moment. We have to be calm and show solidarity.’ (Virginia Mayo/Associated Press)

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Tuesday’s attacks.

‘It was a war scene,’ says witness

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 victims’ blood.

“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.

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 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 Schuman 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.”BELGIUM-BLASTA baby and man in thermal blankets are driven from the scene of explosions at Zaventem airport. (Francois Lenoir/Reuters)

Francoise Ledune, a spokeswoman for the Brussels Metro, said on BFM television that there appeared to have been just one explosion, in a car that was stopped at Maelbeek.

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 video shown on France’s i-Tele television showed passengers including a child running 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 panelling and what appeared to be ceiling insulation covering the floor.Brussels airport explosionsDebris is seen strewn around the departures area of the Brussels airport. (Jef Versele/Facebook)

Marc Noel, 63, was about to board a Delta flight to Atlanta, to return to his home in Raleigh, North Carolina.

A Belgian native, Noel says he was in an airport shop buying automobile magazines was the first explosion occurred about 45 metres away.

“People were crying, shouting, children. It was a horrible experience,” he told AP. He said his decision to buy the magazines might have saved his life. “I don’t want to think about it, but I would probably have been in that place when the bomb went off.”

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 centre urged people not to come to the airport.Passengers on the metro leave their carriages and walk along the tracks following an attack on the Brussels underground transport system in Brussels, Belgium, after an explosion on March 22, 2016.

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