There were two explosions in the Brussels airport departure hall around around 8 a.m. local time today. There was also an explosion at a subway station near EU headquarters. Flights were suspended. US flights to Brussels landed safely. Intra-european flights were diverted or returned to their origin. (Update: Delta 42 from New York JFK was diverted to Amsterdam, hat tip Joe Brancatelli)
As of this writing at least 13 have been reported dead at the airport and 15 at the subway station. Although some of what we will read and see on television reported today will turn out to be wrong.
This follows Friday’s arrest of Paris attack suspect Salah Abdeslam. (As Bruce Schneier observes, “tracking people, and tracing groups of people, has become easy because of all the unencrypted metadata we generate everywhere.” And also that fugitives should learn to cook if they want to minimize their footprint.) Presumably an attack of this nature has been planned for some time.
One of the airport explosions is reported to have been near the American Airlines check-in counter, although not in the American Airlines check-in row. The other explosion is reported to have been near the check-in desk for Brussels Airlines. American confirmed their “employees and contractors are accounted for with no reported injuries.”
Here are people fleeing the terminal:
With the airport closed, the subway shut down, and Eurostar not operating within Belgium anyone who must get out would likely have had to rent a car to drive to Paris.
Targeting check-in desks is something I wrote a magazine article about in 2001. As you harden security, the attack zone widens. Perhaps we’ll rethink the wisdom of long TSA lines but probably we will not.
I’m reminded of Albert Camus,
We can foresee a time when…the only people at liberty will be prison guards who will then have to lock up one another. When only one remains, he will be called the ‘Supreme Guard’; and that will be the ideal society in which problems of opposition, the headache of all twentieth century governments, will be settled once and for all.
At least sporadically at some airports in Europe access to some airline check-in counters including American has included ID checks. Some airports in Southeast Asia require showing ID and printed itineraries to enter the terminal. Those requirements of course aren’t difficult for would-be terrorists to meet.
While there’s always the risk of follow-on attacks, I actually feel safer flying through Europe. In some measure the risk of European and Brussels travel (at least once Brussels travel again becomes possible) is less than it was yesterday since this attack has already happened.
My commute, for several years after 9/11, took me directly past the Pentagon each morning and evening. I feel much safer traveling by plane each day than making that commute, which itself turned out not to repeat itself.
While shocking, and painful – to watch and certainly for the families affected – terrorism remains rare and air travel relatively safe.
Paris will light up the Eiffel Tower in the colors of Belgium’s flag tonight.