Canadian working near Brussels train station blast describes 'sombre' scene

A Canadian who lives in Brussels and works near the Maelbeek metro station, where at least 20 people are believed to have been killed in Tuesday's terrorist attack, says people in the area are shocked but not holed up indoors.

Tim Maler biked to work today instead of taking the train to Maelbeek station, where at least 20 were killed

Former Calgarian now in Belgium 'gut-wrenched' following Brussels attacks

CBC News Calgary

5 years ago
Pub owner Peeter Aitken describes the atmosphere in the Belgian capital after explosions ripped through the airport and transit system there. 2:42

A Canadian who lives in Brussels and works near the Maelbeek metro station, where at least 20 people were killed in Tuesday's terrorist attack, says people in the area are shocked but not holed up indoors.

"It's sombre, I would say, but people are walking around the streets," Tim Maler told The Calgary Eyeopener Tuesday morning from inside his office building.

"And, obviously, everybody is talking about it. It's the only thing that anybody's dealing with right now."

The area around the station, itself, has been blocked off by police and people in the vicinity are being advised to be cautious but are not under a "lockdown," he added.

Maler, who works as a senior correspondent with the EU Business and Agriculture Intelligence Service (Agri Europe), said he first heard about the other attack on the Brussels airport, which killed at least 14 people, while on his way to work.

When he arrived, he learned of the explosion at the nearby train station.

"Today I biked to work but sometimes I take the metro and I would have been passing by the station around that time," he said.

"Thankfully, I didn't."

Maler said he's still grappling to process the scale of what happened.

"I'm fine but I'm extremely sad for all the people who lost their lives," he said.

"You never expect something like this to happen." 

Machine guns in streets the norm

Former Calgarian Peeter Aitken co-owns a small bar in a pedestrian plaza one block away from Grand Place in Brussels, and said he plans to open as usual at 3 p.m.

"We decided that ... as long as they were familiar faces, and that we knew them, we would stay open for them," he said.

Aitken said the heightened police and military presence nearby makes him feel safer.

"It's nothing to walk around the corner in the street right downtown and walk right into three military army fatigues with machine guns walking towards you," he said.

"When you first saw them, you really couldn't keep your eyes off them. Now they're more of a relief that they're there for our protection."

Acts deemed 'cowardly' by politicians

In a statement, Premier Rachel Notley offered condolences and solidarity to the people of Belgium.

"Terrorizing innocent civilians is a cowardly act," she said.

"These unspeakable acts are fostering the opposite of their desired effect. As the world grapples with another senseless terror attack, our collective resolve to stand tall against terrorism only grows."

Similarly, Wildrose opposition leader Brian Jean said he was "horrified by the savage terrorist attacks in Brussels."

"Together we will stand against these cowardly acts of terror and show the strength of our resolve in our commitment to peace and unity."

Heightened security at YYC

No flights have been affected at Calgary International Airport as a result of the Brussels attacks, said a spokesperson in a statement.

"However we have increased our vigilance and we remain focused, as we are every day, on the safety and well-being of everyone at Calgary International Airport."

The threat risk level has not been raised in Canada, but authorities are asking staff and peace officers to make sure they remain visible in light of the attacks, said Calgary Transit spokesperson Brian Whitelaw,

"Anything that is suspicious we're asking that people pay attention to and contact us through a variety of ways on the transit system," he said, adding that this will likely continue for the week. 

No CBE students in Belgium

The Calgary Board of Education said none of its students are currently on school trips in Belgium. 

"Student safety is always our priority," said a media spokesperson.

"We continually monitor travel advisories for all student trip destinations, and as always, we will respond to any changes."

The Calgary Catholic School District cancelled all international trips as of November last year, and has not changed that since, said media relations specialist Karen Ryhorchuk.

With files from The Calgary Eyeopener and The Homestretch


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