Three explosions in Brussels; U.Va. Study Abroad in contact with students
At least 30 dead in attacks Tuesday
Three explosions in the Belgian capital of Brussels Tuesday killed at least 30 people and injured 200 others. Two explosions occurred at the Brussels Airport, and a third blast targeted a subway station located in the Brussels district of Maalbeek. Reports of the first attack began around 8 a.m. local time, or 3 a.m. ET.
Dudley Doane, director of International, Summer and Special Academic Programs at the University, said there are two students studying in Brussels through an approved program provider. The University Study Abroad Program has been in contact with the University students currently located in Brussels through the Council on International Education Exchange program.
“The program provider has confirmed the safety of each student,” Doane said. “We’ve since learned that a student studying in Europe this semester is in Brussels as part of spring break travel. The student’s safety has been confirmed.”
Third-year College student Victoria Moran said her study abroad coordinator has been updating her periodically via email and advised her to stay indoors until further notice.
“They'd heard from CIEE — my study abroad program — that I'm safe and advised me to keep my family updated, attend to instructions from CIEE, local authorities and the US Embassy,” Moran said in an email statement.
At least one of the explosions at the airport was a suicide bombing, according to Belgian media. One attack was stationed right outside the security checkpoint, while the other was near an airline check-in counter.
The explosion at Maalbeek Metro Station, located near the headquarters of the European Union, killed at least 15 people and injured 10 more.
156 total casulaties
Graphic By: Alshaday Gudina
Belgian officials have increased the threat level, shut down all public transportation and advised citizens to remain indoors.
“All my classes have been cancelled for the day, no word on what the rest of the week will look like,” Moran said. “For now I'm safe at home with my roommates, my landlord and his family awaiting more news.”
Third-year College student Price Gillock, who studied abroad in Brussels last semester, said he felt safe due to the high security precautions following the Paris attacks in November.
“There was a level four security level —the highest possible — national guard at every street corner, and even tanks in some of the most populated areas,” Gillock said. “People really didn't even go out to the city center for a few weeks after the Paris attacks. I felt very safe because I never really thought anything could actually go down with all the precautions everyone was taking.”
Gillock also said his program coordinators in Brussels were dismissive of the real possibility of another attack.
“While they were understanding of two students who left Belgium early, they spent a good amount of time trying to convince them to stay,” Gillock said. “That might make them sound a little cruel now, but at the time my friends and I were just as skeptical of the possibility of another attack given the level of security in Brussels.”
Tuesday’s attacks in Brussels occurred just days following the capture of Salah Abdeslam, one of the terrorists involved in Paris terror attacks.
“It is really harrowing to have these attacks take place two days after the capture of Abdeslam,” Gillock said. “The Belgian authorities now have to deal with the consequences of allowing a terror attack to take place despite months of careful deliberation and hard work to prevent those attacks. It almost feels like we won't ever have the comfort of letting our guard down, which is exactly what the terrorists want.”
Gillock said those he knows in Brussels are okay, but shaken.
“Some were actually at work around the area where the attack took place and are just trying keep going like normal,” Gillock said. “One friend changed his profile picture to the Mannekin Pis peeing on the ISIS symbol … Everyone seemed pretty shocked and horrified though.”
Doane said the University monitors health, safety and security conditions where students travel.
“If risks are identified, students are advised on how to respond and directed to support services,” Doane said. “As a practice, U.Va. remains in close contact with students abroad, their families and the U.S. Department of State.”