Lockdown turns Brussels into ghost town

November 23, 2015 10:53 am

Brussels is said to be like a scene from “one of those zombie
apocalypse films” as the Belgian city goes into a second day of
lockdown.
Schools will be closed on Monday, while the Metro
underground system will also remain closed to the public, as the
government warns of a “serious and imminent” threat of coordinated,
multiple attacks.
It will be the second day running that Brussels
will sit at its highest threat level, while the rest of the European
nation will stay at a level three, on a four-tier scale, Reuters reported ’s prime minister, Charles Michel, as saying.
“What
we fear is an attack similar to the one in Paris, with several
individuals who could also possibly launch several attacks at the same
time in multiple locations,” Michel told a press conference in Brussels.
The lockdown means many public events have been cancelled and public buildings closed.

UK newspaper The Independent’s Brussels correspondent,
Leo Cendrowicz, told Newstalk ZB the Metro underground was “completely
closed”, as well as many of the top department stores, and events like
football matches, concerts, and cinemas, had been cancelled.

Two tourists walk in a deserted street towards the main train station in the centre of Brussels. Photo / AP
Two tourists walk in a deserted street towards the main train station in the centre of Brussels. Photo / AP
“Since it’s Sunday a lot of this wouldn’t matter too much,
apart from the fact that you have famous markets here in Brussels,
including the one at Place du Jeu de Balle, which features in one of the
Tin Tin books and was featured in the film that Peter Jackson made a
few years ago. These are famous these markets, and they’re all closed,”
he told Newstalk ZB this morning.
“The big question now is what happens next.”
The
security alert has been elevated after fears one of the Paris attackers
is in Brussels and may be planning a similar series of coordinated
attacks.
Salah Abdeslam, 26, was driven back to Brussels in the
early hours of the Saturday morning following the terror attacks in
Paris on November 13.
His older brother, Brahim Abdeslam, 31,
detonated a suicide vest outside the Comptoir Voltaire cafe, close to
the Bataclan theatre where 89 people were killed.
“We know that
Abdeslam was actually driven back to Brussels in the early hours of that
Saturday morning after the attacks, and the two people who drove him
are in police custody,” Cendrowicz said.

The entrance to the metro at the main train station in the centre of Brussels is closed. Photo / AP
The entrance to the metro at the main train station in the centre of Brussels is closed. Photo / AP
“The lawyer of one of those people has said on TV that he
was in the car and he seemed nervous, and while he didn’t have any
weapons on him, he had a bulky jacket which could have been concealing a
suicide belt. So there’s a question there about whether he’s planning
something dramatic.
“There are also reports that he was actually
very disappointed that he couldn’t blow himself up in Paris, he was very
cross with himself, there might have been something which went wrong
with his bomb.
“Whatever the case, there is the risk that he’s
here in Brussels and he’s planning to do something and that’s why the
police are out in force and that’s why they’re cancelling all sorts of
events.”
People in Brussels were “very nervous”, Cendrowicz said.

Belgian Army soldiers patrol near Christmas huts in front of the old Brussels' stock exchange. Photo / AP
Belgian Army soldiers patrol near Christmas huts in front of the old Brussels’ stock exchange. Photo / AP
“A lot of people are staying inside, there’s lots of
rumours going around, there are false alerts, and it’s a bit of a
strange situation,” he said.
“A lot of the streets are quite
quiet, there are some areas where there’s still activity but, some
areas. it’s completely deserted. It feels like one of these zombie
apocalypse films, it’s really eerie and strange.”
The police and army presence in the city has been boosted during the lockdown, Reuters reported.
Belgium
has been at the heart of investigations into the Paris attacks after
links to Brussels, and the poor district of Molenbeek in particular,
emerged, Reuters reported.

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