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.
Zaventem airport has been closed since twin bombings wrecked the departure hall on March 22, 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 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 reopening of the airport in the course of morning.
The airport’s chief executive Arnaud Feist has warned it could take months for Zaventem to be fully operational again. Air Brussels told it was experiencing the most serious crisis in its history because of the closure, with some five million euros a day in lost earnings.
The city’s metro system was set to be largely back to normal again from today, apart from Maelbeek station where the bombing took place. 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. he 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, named by media as Faycal Cheffou, with terrorist murder and were investigating whether he was the third airport attacker who fled after his bomb did not detonate.
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