At least 34 people have been killed and over 130 injured at Zaventem airport and Maalbeek metro station, close to European Union institutions, in Brussels. Across Europe security has been stepped up in the wake of Tuesday’s terrorist attacks.
An Irish government spokesperson has confirmed that the National Security Council will meet on Tuesday, following the attacks, and report to Acting-Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny by the end of the day. The council is comprised of the secretaries general of the departments of an Taoiseach, Foreign Affairs, Justice and Defense, the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces and the Garda Commissioner.
Kenny said “As far as we are aware no Irish citizen is involved here. With such tragic circumstances one can never be sure of what’s happened."
He added “Those who seek to use death and violence in this way must be confronted, will be confronted and will be defeated.”
The Dáil (Irish Parliament) stood for a minute’s silence to remember the victims, on Tuesday morning.
Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs said that current information indicated that no Irish were victims in the attack. Minister Charlie Flanagan told RTE News the department is actively engaged with the Belgian authorities and the Irish Ambassador in Brussels is monitoring the situation on the ground.
Belgium has raised its terror alert system from three to four, its highest level. ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack.
There were unconfirmed reports of shots being fired and shouting, in Arabic, at the airport before the bomb blasts were heard. Pictures showed smoke rising from the airport as passengers ran down a slipway, some still carrying their luggage.
At Maalbeek metro station, Belgian public broadcaster RTBF, reported that 20 people have died and dozens were injured. The explosion occurred in the last car of a train as it pulled out of the station, during the Tuesday morning rush hour.
"These people are sick". #Brussels airport passengers describe moment of explosions.March 22, 2016
These bombings come just four days after the arrest, in Brussels, of Saleh Abdeslam, the prime suspect in the Paris terror attacks of November 2015, which killed 130 people. The Belgium police had been on alert for any reprisal action.
President Michael D. Higgins released a statement saying “I am deeply saddened to learn of the attacks and the tragic loss of lives in Brussels today.
“These attacks strike at the fundamental right of all to live in peace. These actions must not undermine the will of all Europeans to live and work together.”
France’s President Francois Hollande said the attacks struck at "the whole of Europe" and urged the continent to take "vital steps in the face of the seriousness of the threat". The French interior minister has deployed 1,600 additional police officers at borders and on transport.
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said "We are at war. Over the past few months in Europe we have endured several acts of war."
European Union president Donald Tusk said, in a statement “I am appalled by the bombings this morning at Zavantem airport and the European district in Brussels which have cost several innocent lives and injured many others.”
It continued “These attacks mark another low by the terrorists in the service of hatred and violence.”
He added “Any Irish citizens in Brussels or Belgium should exercise caution and closely follow the instructions of local authorities.”
The United Kingdom, Denmark, Sweden and Finland also stepped up security at airports and public places.
On Tuesday morning the Belgian Crisis Centre, wary of a further incident, appealed to the population: "Stay where you are." Now flights have been cancelled and public transport has been shut down. Passengers at the airport were taken by coach to a secure location.
Belgium's Foreign Minister Didier Reynders say the suspects could still be at large.
Tihange nuclear power plant, located 44 miles from the city has also been evacuated, according to the local news broadcaster VTM.
A two day celebration of Ireland’s 1916 Easter Rising due to take place in the European Parliament in Brussels, on Tuesday and Wednesday, has been cancelled. The event was to include historical and political hearings, a concert of Irish music, dramatic re-enactments and a presentation of a copy of the 1916 Proclamation of Independence.
More than 120 were due to attend the events hosted by Sinn Féin Members of European Parliament, Martina Anderson, Lynn Boylan, Matt Carthy and Liadh Ní Riada. The 88 visitors flying to Brussels this morning had their flght re-routed to Amsterdam’s Schipol airport, in the Netherlands.
Two Northern Irish teenagers narrowly missed the bomb blasts, having missed their train to the airport.
Shealyn Caulfield (17), from Ballymena, County Antrim, is currently holed up with 20 other young people, who had traveled to Belgium. The teen, who suffers from a heart condition told Belfast Live “We missed our first train to the airport so we were 10 minutes behind schedule and missed the bombing by a few minutes.
“As soon as we arrived at the airport we were told to sprint out of the emergency exits. We then were walking towards a metro and were told that there had been another bombing in the metro stations and that public transport was shut down.
"The metro station that we were at this morning outside of our hotel was bombed.
"We are currently waiting on a private hire coach that the youth service have paid to (go to) Amsterdam and will get home from there.
"I am part of a group of 20 youths and we are currently in a pub with the locals watching the news and keeping our families updated.
"I was handing out some chocolates to everyone in the pub to give them something to smile about.
"We have all rallied together and although there has been some tears the morale is high. We definitely have been super lucky.
"The bombs were in the international terminal apparently - nothing confirmed yet - of which we were heading to.
"The services and locals have been very helpful."
She added "We were meant to fly out at 10:05am and arrived at the airport around the time of the bombings.
"We were at the European Parliament yesterday, we did not meet the European Youth Council.
"We arrived on Friday, the day that one of the alleged Paris bombers was shot and arrested in the city center."