Today, between approximately 8am and 9am local time, a series of explosions ripped through the Belgium capital of Brussels in what Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel has described as a “cowardly” attack and “black moment” for the nation.
While the numbers may rise in the coming hours and days, current confirmed figures put casualties at 34 dead and over 230 injured, with 14 killed in two blasts at Zaventem airport (one of which may have involved a suicide bomber) and 20 killed in a third bombing at Maelbeek metro station.
Witness accounts, photographs and video footage from both locations portray scenes of mass confusion and chaos, with some people having apparently lost limbs in the explosions.
Others, such as airport baggage security officer Alphonse Lyoura, have said they heard gunfire (according to local media) and men shouting in Arabic before the first detonation
As public transport throughout Belgium grinds to a halt, the twittersphere has lit up with people in Belgium using the hashtag #ikwillhelpen (translating to: “I want to help”) to offer shelter for those stranded.
The Belgian Taxi Drivers Union has additionally urged its driver to provide free transportation where they can.
At the same time, while major cities around the world ramp up security, Belgian anti-terror police are conducting house searches throughout regions near the capital.
The Prime Minister and Belgium crisis centre have urged civilians across the country to remain indoors.
5:10 GMT UPDATE:
Islamic State officially claims responsibility for the Brussels attacks, according to a news agency associated with the extremist group, while a third bomb found at Zaventem airport has been detonated in a controlled explosion.
While Belgium’s King Philippe prepares to make a televised address to the nation at 7pm local time, many world leaders have already condemned Tuesday’s violence and vowed to continue in their shared commitment to end terrorism on an international scale.
A joint statement from EU members has also been released.
“The European Union and its member states stand firm with Belgium in solidarity and are determined to face this threat together with all necessary means,” it reads.
“This latest attack only strengthens our resolve to defend the European values and tolerance from the attacks of the intolerant.”
As investigations continue, federal prosecutors have released a photo captured from CCTV footage showing three men they believe to have been involved with the attack at the airport.
While it is thought the two men on the left of the photograph blew themselves up, the man in white is wanted by police.
As shock and anger continues to take the globe by storm, UN official Amin Awad has criticised people for taking their grievances out on asylum seekers fleeing violence in places such as Syria.
“To lump everybody together and say refugees are posing a security risk, that is not true,” he said.
“Any sort of hostilities [toward refugees] because of the Brussels attack or Paris attack is misplaced.”
Rushed calls for tighter airport security have also been discouraged by leading aviation security expert Phillip Baum.
“It’s ultimately down to looking for people with negative intent and we have to do that without creating new security hurdles that create new targets, such as checkpoints at the entrance to terminals,” he said.
Although Belgium’s terror threat level remains at Level 4, denoting the potential for “serious and imminent attack”, officials have stated civilians do not necessarily need to stay indoors any longer.