Brussels under attack [upd]

Explosions at Brussels Airport and metro stations killed at least 28 people according to police and hospitals reports.

The deathtoll at the Zaventem airport in Brussels has increased to 13, according to the Belgian broadcaster VRT. Another 35 people were severely injured, Reuters reports. VRT says the Brussels airport explosion was a suicide attack. This is still unconfirmed though. 15 people were killed in another blast blast at the Maelbeek station. The station is about 500 metres from the EU buildings.

According to French media reports, there were two explosions minutes apart just before 8am at Brussels Airport – one in the departures area and one on or near the runway, writes Angelique Chrisafis. A false ceiling collapsed causing lots of dust and smoke.

The departures area had easy access to the public, but the runway area would have been closed to public access and raises questions about how the explosion could have happened there.

Brussels is in lock down. The metro stations and the airport have been closed. City’s museums are also reported to have been shut. Brussels University has been evacuated in the wake of the blasts, SkyNews reports.

Belgium’s Prime Minister Charles Michel says his government is monitoring the situation minute-by-minute. A tweet he said the “top priority” the victims of the blasts (Guardian).

The Belgian prime minister has condemned the attacks as “blind, violent and cowardly”.  He added: “We must face this challenge in solidarity, united, together.”

European council president Donald Tusk said the Brussels attacks “mark another low by the terrorists”. In a statement he said: “I am appalled by the bombings this morning at Zaventem airport and the European district in Brussels which have cost several innocent lives and injured many others.

I extend my sincerest sympathies to the relatives and friends of the victims. These attacks mark another low by the terrorists in the service of hatred and violence.

The European institutions are hosted in Brussels thanks to the generosity of Belgium’s government and its people. The European Union returns this solidarity now and will fulfill its role to help Brussels, Belgium and Europe as a whole counter the terror threat which we are all facing.”

The European commission has locked down its staff after the apparent attacks. Kristalina Georgieva, the EU’s vice-president in charge of personnel told staff to stay inside, Guardian reports.

David Cameron chairs a meeting of the UK government’s emergency committee, Cobra, in the wake of the Brussels attacks. “I will be chairing a COBRA meeting on the events in Brussels later this morning,” Cameron tweeted.

The United Kingdom threat level remains at severe, the second highest level. It means security officials assess an attack on the UK is highly likely, Guardian reports.

Photo: Simon Marks, Twitter