Brussels attacks: Airport to take months to be fully operational, say officials

Brussels airport said it would not reopen today despite drills to test resuming partial services after the suicide bombings that struck its departure hall

hidden March 30, 2016 08:19:26 IST
Brussels attacks: Airport to take months to be fully operational, say officials

Brussels: Brussels airport said it would not reopen today despite drills to test resuming partial services
after the suicide bombings that struck its departure hall and a metro train, as Belgium lowered the death toll to 32.

Brussels attacks Airport to take months to be fully operational say officials

The twin faces of the Brussels airport attack. AFP

Zaventem airport has been closed since twin bombings wrecked the departure hall on 22 March, in coordinated suicide attacks that were claimed by the Islamic State group and which also hit Maalbeek metro station in central Brussels.

A total of 32 people were killed in Belgium's worst-ever terror attacks, the government said, down from an earlier toll of 35 following confusion between two lists of people who had died at the scene and in hospital.

"After thorough verification: number of victims goes down to 32. Still 94 people in hospital," Health Minister Maggie de Block tweeted.

All the victims have now been identified, many of them foreign nationals, testament to the cosmopolitan nature of a city that is home to both the European Union and NATO. Hundreds of employees returned to the airport yesterday for a large-scale test run to determine if services could partially resume from today, but those hopes were dashed.

Airport spokeswoman Anke Fransen said authorities were reviewing the results of the practice run, adding: "We hope to reach a decision on a partial re-opening of the airport in the course of (today) morning."

The airport's chief executive Arnaud Feist has warned it could take "months" for Zaventem to be fully operational again.

In the Portuguese town of Leiria, emotional football fans fell silent for a minute last night at the start of a friendly match against Belgium that was supposed to take place in Brussels. The Belgian team, who lost 2-1, wore shirts that read: "In memory of all victims, Brussels, 22.03.2016."

As Brussels struggles to get back on its feet, criticism of authorities' handling of the case has mounted after the sole suspect charged over the attacks was freed on Monday for lack of evidence.

Prosecutors had charged the suspect, known as Faycal C, with "terrorist murder" and were investigating whether he was the third airport attacker who fled after his bomb did not detonate.

But the hunt is now back on for the so-called "man in the hat", seen in CCTV footage next to the two suicide bombers at the airport.

AFP

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