Explosions hit Brussels airport, several killed: Belgian media

admin   •   March 22, 2016   •   1650

Black smoke is seen rising from the Brussels airport following explosions, in this still image made available March 22, 2016. REUTERS/Peter van Rossum via Reuters TV

Black smoke is seen rising from the Brussels airport following explosions, in this still image made available March 22, 2016. REUTERS/Peter van Rossum via Reuters TV

Explosions tore through the departure hall of Brussels airport on Tuesday morning killing up to 10 people and injuring 30 others and a second blast struck a metro station in the capital shortly afterwards, the Belgian public broadcaster RTBF said.

The Belga agency said shots were fired and there were shouts in Arabic shortly before the blasts at the airport. Pictures on social media showed smoke rising from the terminal building through shattered windows and passengers running away down a slipway, some still hauling their bags.

The blasts at the airport and metro station occurred four days after the arrest in Brussels of a suspected participant in November militant attacks in Paris that killed 130 people. Belgian police had been on alert for any reprisal action.

British Sky News television’s Alex Rossi, at the airport, said he heard two “very, very loud explosions”.

“I could feel the building move. There was also dust and smoke as well… I went towards where the explosion came from and there were people coming out looking very dazed and shocked.”

“The thinking here is that it is some kind of terrorist attack – that hasn’t been verified by any of the authorities here at the airport.”

Video showed devastation inside the departure hall with ceiling tiles and glass scattered across the floor.

RTBF said the metro station hit by the explosion was close to European Union institutions. Authorities closed all metro stations in Brussels, but there were no details immediately available of any casualties in this second incident of the day.

A local journalist tweeted a photograph of a person lying covered in blood among smoke outside Maelbeek metro station, on the main Rue de la Loi avenue which connects central Brussels with the EU institutions.

FLIGHTS CANCELED, PASSENGERS EVACUATED

The agency cited hospital sources as saying up to ten people were killed at the airport.

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel said on his twitter feed: “We are following the situation minute by minute. Our priority concern is for the victims and those present in the airport.”

Brussels airport said it had canceled all flights and the complex had been evacuated and trains to the airport had been stopped. Passengers were taken to coaches from the terminal that would remove them to a secure area.

Police did not give any confirmation of the cause of the blast. But there has been a high state of alert across western Europe for fear of militant attacks backed by Islamic State, which claimed responsibility for the Paris attack.

European stocks fell after the explosions, particularly travel sector stocks including airlines and hotels, pulling the broader indices down from multi-week highs. Safe-haven assets, gold and government bonds rose in price.

French citizen Salah Abdeslam, the prime surviving suspect for November’s Paris attacks on a stadium, cafes and a concert hall, was captured by Belgian police after a shootout on Friday.

Belgium’s Interior Minister, Jan Jambon, said on Monday the country was on high alert for a revenge attack.

“We know that stopping one cell can … push others into action. We are aware of it in this case,” he told public radio.

French investigator Francois Molins told a news conference in Paris on Saturday that Abdeslam, a French citizen born and raised in Brussels, admitted to investigators he had wanted to blow himself up along with others at the Stade de France on the night of the attack claimed by Islamic State; but he later backed out.

(Additional reporting by Andrew Heavens; Editing by Ralph Boulton)

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Hospital staff in Belgium stage silent protest as PM Wilmes visits

UNTV News   •   May 18, 2020

Belgian Prime Minister, Sophie Wilmes, was met by a silent protest during a non-official visit to Saint-Pierre Hospital in Brussels on Saturday (May 16).

A video obtained by Reuters showed medical staff wearing protective equipment standing silent in two rows and turning their backs as the Prime Minister arrived in a car.

The workers staged the protest to call for increased acknowledgement of their efforts and against a decree to recruit unqualified staff to carry out nursing activities, according to local media.

Belgian schools will partially reopen and markets, museums and zoos will also be allowed to operate again from Monday (May 18), Prime Minister Sophie Wilmes said on Wednesday (May 13), in a further easing of the country’s two-month coronavirus lockdown.

Belgium, with a population of 11.5 million, is among the European nations worst hit by COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus, but it began a phased easing of the restrictions at the start of May.

The country has so far reported 54,989 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 9,005 deaths. (Reuters)

(Production: Oleksandr Ieltsov, Hanna Rantala, Gabriela Boccaccio)

Heatwave hits Brussels with temperature over 30 degrees

Robie de Guzman   •   June 25, 2019

Various people filling water bottles at a fountain | Courtesy : Reuters

Temperatures soared in Brussels on Monday (June 24) kicking off a heatwave with temperatures of 32 degrees Celsius expected in the Belgian capital from Tuesday, up to 34 degrees in the north of the country.

The Belgian Royal Meteorological Institute said high temperatures were caused by the circulation of subtropical air between a depression located over the Atlantic Ocean and an anticyclone covering an area ranging from Iceland to Russia.

On its website, the Walloon government issued a series of recommendations including drinking more than a liter of water per day and avoiding alcohol, closing the windows and curtains in rooms exposed to the sun, wearing light clothes and a hat.

The Brussels regional government wrote on Twitter that pollution levels will increase but not go beyond the 180 micrograms per cubic meter threshold above which the public has to be informed of risks. (REUTERS)

Thousands march in Brussels against U.N. migration pact

UNTV News   •   December 17, 2018

Far-right supporters attend a protest against Marrakesh Migration Pact in Brussels, Belgium December 16, 2018. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Thousands of people marched in Brussels on Sunday against a U.N. pact aimed at fostering cooperation on migration, eclipsing a smaller demonstration in support of the deal, the signing of which brought down Belgium’s government last week.

Police said some 5,500 people marched in the bigger protest, organized by Flemish right wing parties in the part of the capital where main European Union institutions are located.

A separate counter-demonstration of around 1,000 people, organized by left-wing groups and non-governmental organizations, took place in the city center.

Belgian right-wing N-VA, which is the biggest party in parliament, pulled its ministers from the ruling coalition last week after Prime Minister Charles Michel refused its demand that he not sign the U.N. migration compact in Marrakesh.

Michel had secured a large parliamentary majority in favor of maintaining Belgium’s support of the U.N. text, with support from the opposition socialists and greens. Critics said the N-VA’s move was the opening shot in a campaign before federal elections in May.

The U.N. pact was agreed in July by all 193 U.N. members except the United States, but only 164 formally signed it at the meeting last Monday.

It has run into criticism from European politicians who say it could increase immigration to Europe as the bloc has turned increasingly restrictive on accepting refugees and migrants alike since a 2015 spike in arrivals.

Ten countries, mostly in formerly Communist Eastern Europe, have pulled out of the non-binding pact.

With a record 21.3 million refugees globally, the United Nations began work on the pact after more than one million people arrived in Europe in 2015, many fleeing civil war in Syria and poverty in Africa.

Additional reportin by Francois Lenoir; Reporting by Jan Strupczewski and Mark Potter

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