At least 13 people were killed and dozens of others were injured after coordinated explosions rocked the Brussels airport and subway system Tuesday morning.
The attacks came four 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. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Tuesday’s attacks.
Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel told a midday press conference that “what we feared has happened” and said his country faced “a tragic moment. We have to be calm and show solidarity.
Two explosions rocked the departure hall at the Brussels airport shortly after 8 a.m. local time. (3 a.m. ET). Witnesses told the Associated Press that one occurred at an excess baggage payment counter and the other near a Starbucks cafe.
Reuters, citing the Belga news agency, reported that shots were fired and shouting in Arabic was heard before the explosions.
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 blood from victims.
“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.
About 80 minutes after the airport blasts, another explosion was reported on a train that was stopped at the Maelbeek subway station, not far from the headquarters of the European Union. Rescue workers set up a makeshift treatment center in a local pub. Dazed and shocked morning travelers streamed from the metro entrances as police tried to set up a security cordon.
Brussels police spokesman Christian De Coninck said there were deaths at the station, but said he had no idea how many were killed.
Alexandre Brans, 32, who was wiping blood from his face, said: “The metro was leaving Maelbeek station when there was a really loud explosion. It was panic everywhere. There were a lot of people in the metro.”
First responders ran through the street outside with two people on stretchers, their clothes badly torn.
Belgium’s interior minister announced that the terror threat was being raised to its maximum level. All flights were canceled, arriving planes and trains were diverted and Belgium’s terror alert level was raised to its highest level. 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
The explosions at the airport hit at the middle of the busiest time there. Smoke was seen billowing out of the terminal while other images showed a security officer patrolling inside a hall with blasted paneling and what appears to be ceiling insulation covering the floor. A member of Belgium’s parliament, whose wife was at the airport, told Belga that the wounded were struck by flying glass and ceiling tiles.
Marie-Odile Lognard, a traveller who was lining up in the departures hall for a flight to Abu Dhabi, told BFM television that people panicked after the first explosion about 20 meters from her and that a second explosion about 15 seconds later caused parts of the ceiling to collapse.
“I knew it was an explosion because I’ve been around explosions before,” said Denise Brandt, an American woman interviewed by Sky television.
“I felt the explosion, the way it feels through your body. And we just looked at each other and I said let’s go this way. It was over there. There was just this instinct to get away from it. Then we saw people running, crying, toward us. So I knew we were going in the right direction and away from it. ”
Amateur video shown on France’s i-Tele television showed passengers including a child running with a backpack dashing out of the terminal different directions as they tugged luggage.
Marc Noel, 63, was about to board a Delta flight to Atlanta, to return to his home in Raleigh, North Carolina.
A Belgium native, Noel says he was in an airport shop buying automobile magazines was the first explosion occurred about 50 yards 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.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.