48ºF

Brussels witness: 'People were on the floor'

Multiple deaths reported in terror-related explosions

BRUSSELS, Belgium – Eyewitnesses have described the scenes of carnage and chaos that unfolded as apparently coordinated attacks struck multiple locations in the Belgian capital Tuesday.

Jef Versele, from the Belgian city of Ghent, was making his way to check-in for a flight to Rome at Brussels Airport Tuesday morning when he heard a loud noise emanating from several floors below him.

"At first I was not aware that it was a bomb," he told CNN. "I had the idea that an accident had happened in a food court or something like that."
The explosion set off a panic, with people screaming and running through the terminal, before it was followed by a second explosion, "which was in my eyes much more powerful than the first one."

The second blast, which blew out windows at the airport and brought ceiling panels down, left people collapsed on the floor and triggered even greater panic.

"It was quite a mess," he told CNN.

He said although he was two floors above the source of the explosions -- at least one of which was a suicide bombing, according to Belgian prosecutor Frederic Van Leeuw -- many people around him were injured by the blast. He said there about 50 to 60 injured on his level of the airport, while the scenes on the lower levels were worse.

"A lot of people were on the floor. They were injured," Versele said. "I think I was lucky, I was very lucky. I think I have a guardian angel somewhere."

It was about 10 minutes before emergency services and security forces arrived and began tending to the casualties and evacuating people to the parking lot.

Versele said it was hard to believe the scenes he had witnessed. "We cannot believe it, it was so insane. You think not in my backyard."

Maalbeek attack: 'We heard some noises that shouldn't be there'

About an hour later, another attack struck at the subway station of Maalbeek in central Brussels, near the European quarter, where much of the European Union is based.

Sander Verniers was riding the subway, in between stations, when he felt a "strong wind coming through the carriage."

"We heard some noises that shouldn't be there," he said.

The train stopped, passengers opened the emergency exit and were evacuated through the subway tunnels by security forces, fleeing through smoke.

"They organized it pretty good, they made sure there wasn't any panic," he said.

Serge Massart was in the nearby European Commission building where the explosion was heard and felt.

"We all felt the building was shaking, a vibration. We saw many people coming out of the metro station," he said.

Gavin Sheridan tweeted that there were dramatic scenes around the Maalbeek station after of the blast, with some people visibly upset.

"A young lady walked passed me in tears," he tweeted.

"One clearly distressed and angry commuter shouted at the hacks [journalists] 'You have no idea what's down there. Bodies...' before storming off."

Danger 'is getting close'

Versele told CNN that he was a frequent flier from Brussels Airport and had never considered there was any danger attached to traveling from the facility.

"But now, to be honest, it's getting quite close," he said.

He said it was important not to feel it was unsafe to travel, in order "to prove that we are not afraid of" those behind the attacks.

"Maybe they are finally realizing that they have allowed a few people who should not be allowed here. It's a pity these things have to happen before they get aware there's a serious problem."