About 1,500 people who were rushed from the Brussels airport after explosions there Tuesday waited hours for basic information, and some still don't know when or how they will get home.

"We were told to run for the emergency exits, leave everything, and nobody can carry any bags," said G.A. Easwar, a Toronto resident who was returning from a family vacation in India.

He said his plane had just touched down in Brussels when the bombs hit. The scene when they entered the arrivals terminal was chaotic.

"People started running helter-skelter," he said, explaining they were told to leave all luggage behind, including carry-on bags.

Bomb shelter

Authorities bused people to an airport hangar, monitored by police. They closed the airport Tuesday and grounded all commercial flights as investigators began a forensic investigation.

A statement on the Brussels airport website Wednesday said the airport would stay closed Wednesday and Thursday — and there was no certainty about when it would reopen.


Families from several different countries were among the evacuees who were kept at a Brussels sports arena overnight. (G.A. Easwar)

"Because the forensic investigation is still underway, we currently have no access to the building," the statement says. "Until we can assess the damage, it remains unclear when we can resume operations."

After several hours at the hangar, survivors were bused to a large sports arena for shelter.

Many ran without passports


An estimated 1,500 travellers ran from explosions at the Brussels airport and slept on army style cots outside the city Tuesday night. (G.A. Easwar )

"We have nothing," Easwar explained. His family had to leave all luggage behind, as did hundreds of others who slept alongside him on grey army cots Tuesday night.

He doesn't know why he changed his routine that day and stowed his family's passports in a Ziploc bag in his jacket pocket that morning — instead of his carry-on — but he's grateful he did. Easwar said he's talked to many people who had passports and documents stowed in luggage and had to leave without them.

The Brussels airport authority told passengers to contact their airline directly to get luggage back. They have also launched a lost and found form for bags that were not yet checked in.

Individual airlines affected by the attacks sent staff to talk with passengers at the shelter. Most are busing passengers to another city to catch a flight out, at no cost.

After waiting overnight for news, Easwar's family learned Wednesday that Jet Airways would bus stranded customers to Amsterdam, and he would be home in Toronto in a couple of days.