Europe steps up security following Brussels blasts

Security precautions were stepped up at travel hubs across European countries, while flights and train services in and out of Brussels were cancelled.

A picture provided by Twitter user @evanlamos shows passengers leaving a metro train between the Arts-Lois and Maelbeek metro stations after an explosion at Maelbeek station in Brussels, Belgium. EPA/ Evan Lamos / Euractiv
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PARIS // Europe was on high alert on Tuesday after multiple bombings in Brussels airport and the subway system.

Security precautions were stepped up at travel hubs across European countries, while flights and train services in and out of Brussels were cancelled.

In France, security measures were reinforced at airports and train stations in Paris and across the country.

A full deployment of security officials was underway at all eight terminals of Charles de Gaulle airport and its two railway stations, with reinforced checks on trains arriving from Brussels.

French president Francois Hollande held a meeting with his prime minister and interior minister to discuss the attacks in Belgium.

Security was also beefed up at London’s Gatwick airport and Frankfurt airport in Germany.

British police said they would step up their presence at key locations across the country, including transport hubs.

Mark Rowley, Britain’s most senior counter-terrorism officer, said the move was precautionary and did not result from any specific intelligence.

“In London specifically, the Metropolitan Police Service has mobilised additional officers, who will carry out highly visible patrols at key locations around the capital including the transport network,” Mr Rowley said

The Netherlands also stepped up security at national airports and train stations and tightened controls on the southern border with Belgium.

“Out of precaution we are taking a number of additional measures in the Netherlands,” the Dutch coordinator for terrorism and security said.

“There means there will be extra police patrols at Schiphol, Rotterdam and Eindhoven and border controls on the southern border,” he added.

Justice minister Ard Van der Steur also said the country would boost police at train stations, the Dutch news agency ANP reported.

The high-speed Thalys train that runs between Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam cancelled service to the Belgian capital, as did the Eurostar line serving Paris, London and Brussels.

One Thalys train en route from Paris to Brussels was turned back to the French capital. Security has been reinforced at Paris airports and delays are expected, said Aeroports de Paris, which operates the hubs.

“Don’t come to the airport - airport is being evacuated. Avoid the airport area. Flights have been cancelled,” tweeted Brussels Airport Twitter feed on Tuesday. Some arriving air traffic was redirected to other cities, including Amsterdam and Dusseldorf, according to airlines. The metro, trams and bus lines in Brussels were shut.

The blasts add to the woes of the travel industry in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, which already has seen tourism drop after two terrorism attacks in Paris last year, the destruction of a Russian airliner in Egypt, bombings in Ankara and Istanbul in Turkey, and a deadly assault on tourists on a Tunisian beach.

* Agencies