Tributes have been left outside the Maelbeek metro station, where at least 20 people were killed in Tuesday’s terror attacks in Brussels, after police reopened the main road passing past it this morning (24 March).
People in the European Union quarter of Brussels left flowers and messages in memory of the dead in the hours after Rue De La Loi, cordoned off until this morning, was reopened.
A group of at least five people were drawing hearts in chalk on the pavement leading up to the station and on lampposts and railings.
At about 10.45am, more flowers were being laid around the scene of the outrage and outside the many entrances to the station. Much of the pavement was soon covered.
They were also accompanied with chalk messages calling for “peace” and “love”. Such messages have been adopted as a symbol of Brussels’ residents defiance and solidarity.
People begun writing on the pedestrianised area near the Bourse in the city centre, which has become an unofficial place for vigils and remembrance, after the worst terror attacks Belgium has ever experienced.
Two large wreaths were among the tributes left close to the Thon Hotel, which was turned into a makeshift hospital after the attack.
Elsewhere in the city, there was a heavy police presence near the Palais de Justice courthouse. Paris attack suspect Salah Abdelslam was today charged with that outrage but claimed to know nothing about the Brussels attacks.
Military and police, many of whom wore body armour and balaclavas and carried machine guns, surrounded the building, as did the press.
The nervous atmosphere in the city, which is in national mourning and at its highest terror alert, was made more anxious by frequent sirens on the streets.
Nerves in the predominantly Congolese neighbourhood of the Matonge were set jangling after what sounded like an air raid siren went off. It turned out to be a test of an emergence fire system, which would normally only be tried out on the first Thursday of the month.
Residents struggled to complete their daily commute in the city, where flags outside all public buildings are being flown at half-mast, with many preferring to walk rather than get on public transport.
Replacement bus services have been laid on for the Maelbeek station’s line, which leads to the heart of the European quarter.
The buses were packed full of commuters as the city struggled to return to some kind of normalcy. Each bus, run by the STIB network that also runs the metros, had posters in French and Flemish in their windows.
They read, “The STIB loves Brussels.”
Many of the embassies of other countries, including the American and Turkish, as well as the European Commission, also lowered their flags.
The Commission building last night projected the Belgian flag against it in a sign of solidarity with the capital that hosts the major EU institutions.
The aftermath of Tuesday’s twin bombings at Brussels airport and on its metro. EurActiv gives up to the minute updates on the latest developments and implications at European level.