Eyewitness Accounts Of The Brussels Attack Are Devastating
After deadly blasts that killed more than two dozen people and injured many more in the Brussels' international airport and a metro station Tuesday morning, Belgium raised its terrorism threat to its highest level. The airport and public transit system in Brussels remain closed, according to the BBC. As the public tries to understand the attack, which came within a week of the capture of Paris attack suspect Salah Abdeslam in Molenbeek, eyewitness accounts of the Brussels attacks have begun rolling in.
The first attack took place at Brussels' Zaventem airport, when twin blasts exploded close to 8 a.m. local time. Gunfire was heard in the departure terminal, followed by two explosions, according to The Independent. Public transit to the airport was stopped shortly afterwards and the airport confirmed the attack.
At 9:10 a.m., a blast was reported at the Maelbeek metro station, which is close to the European Commission, the executive head of the European Union. Just over 15 minutes later, the Brussels metro system was closed, and, by 10 a.m., the entire Brussels public transit system was closed. Before noon, the Belgian federal prosecutor had confirmed that the three blasts were terrorist attacks, and said at least one of them was likely a suicide bomber, according to ABC. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attacks.
As Belgium launches its investigation and the city shuts down, eyewitnesses have come forward with their stories at both scenes of the attacks.
"We felt like a wave, you feel it in your whole body," Andrew Brandt, a visitor from Arizona, told TIME of the explosion at the Brussels airport. "It is like you are in water and someone jumps in the water and you feel that wave." He described the confusion of airport staff and security, as well as the contradictory messages passengers received, as they were told both to evacuate and to stay where they were. "The security people had no idea what they were doing," he said. "Where the hell were we supposed to go?"
Jef Versele, who was at the airport and headed to Rome, told NBC:
There was dust everywhere, glass everywhere. There was chaos, there was people on the floor everywhere. The ceilings came down. ... A lot of people were in panic. I saw a lot of blood, a lot of people were injured. People were crying, on the floor, covered by parts of the roofing. I saw a lot of leg injuries, a lot of people couldn't move anymore. There were quite a lot of people injured. In the departure hall — you saw people storming out. It was like run for your life.
At the Maelbeek metro station, passengers were evacuated via the subway tracks, according to CTV, and a nearby hotel turned its lobby into an emergency first aid area. Brian Carroll, who was on the metro en route to a conference, told The New York Times:
As we were pulling into the station there was suddenly a loud explosion. There was smoke everywhere. Everyone dropped to the ground. People were screaming and crying. I thought to myself, 'I’ve got to get out of here.' I headed toward an exit. There was smoke and soot everywhere. There was glass everywhere. It was like running through a cloud of dust. I saw the exit of the station was destroyed. I ran out of the station; I ran as far as I could.
Others shared footage of the evacuations, where children can be heard crying in the background as people walk down dark subway tracks.
The survivors' stories are heartbreaking and reveal the confusion, chaos, and panic caused by these attacks. Investigations into them are ongoing, and for now, Brussels remains on lockdown.