October 23, 2016

Brussels airport ‘to partially reopen’

Test have been carried out at Zaventem under tight security


The Brussels airport hit by deadly bomb attacks says it is ready to partially reopen but flights will not restart until Friday evening at the earliest.

Zaventem airport has been closed since 22 March when two suicide bombers blew themselves up in the departure hall.

In a statement, the airport’s operators said the departures area would only be operating at 20% of normal capacity.

The attacks on the airport and another suicide bomb on the Brussels Metro killed 32 people and injured hundreds.

So-called Islamic State (IS) has said it was behind the bombings.

Thursday’s announcement follows days of tests for a temporary check-in system at Zaventem.

“Brussels Airport Company has received the go-ahead from the fire services and the Belgian Civil Aviation Authority for a partial restart of passenger flights at the airport,” the airport’s statement said.

“The airport is thus technically ready for a restart of passenger flights in the temporary infrastructure foreseen for check-in.

“However, the authorities have yet to take a formal decision on the restart date. Until Friday evening no passenger flights will take place at Brussels Airport.”

It said the temporary system could receive 800 departing passengers per hour, far fewer than normal.

Departure terminal following the March 22, 2016 bombing at Zaventem AirportImage copyrightReuters

Image captionThe departure area was badly damaged in the bombing

However, the baggage reclaim and arrivals area was only slightly damaged and has since been made ready for use, it added.

“The final step for the restart is the formal political approval. In the meantime, it has been decided that there will be no passenger flights until Friday evening.”

Chief executive Arnaud Feist said earlier this week that the airport would take months to reopen fully.

Meanwhile, Brussels airport police have said they criticised security well ahead of the attacks.

In an open letter to authorities published by Belgian broadcaster VRT (in Flemish), police said they had sent “strong daily signals regarding the overall security at the airport”.

They complained “there had not been any security control of passengers or luggage from the airport complex right up to the centralised body searches” area.

CCTV shows suspects in Brussels airport attack on March 22, 2016Image copyrightReuters

Image captionPolice are still searching for the suspect on the right

They also alleged that too many airport employees had criminal backgrounds.

Police are still searching for the third man who took part in the airport attacks. The man, pictured on CCTV wearing a hat, was said to have fled the scene without detonating his explosive device.

The two airport bombers who died have been named as Najim Laachraoui and Ibrahim el-Bakraoui.

Bakraoui’s brother, Khalid el-Bakraoui, blew himself up at Maelbeek metro station.

Police later found a computer in which Ibrahim el-Bakraoui left a final message.

The BBC has learned that the same computer contained plans and photos of Prime Minister Charles Michel’s office and home.

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