Eyewitnesses described terrifying moments of chaos in the aftermath of twin explosions at the Brussels airport and a detonation on a subway train at the nearby Maalbeek station.
"We've all known or at least suspected this was coming for some time," Brussels resident Stephen Dau told VOA in an email. Dau boarded a train around 9 a.m. and went one stop before the train stopped abruptly. The conductor ordered passengers to disembark.
"It was orderly. There was no panic, although there was a definite sense of urgency as we walked out," said Dau, who was informed afterwards about the explosion two trains ahead of his train. He said the train conductor "looked to be in shock, but wouldn't say anything else."
Dau said even after the first airport bombing there was a sense of nervous awareness but not fear.
"I haven’t noticed even a whiff of fear on the part of the general population, and we’ve had armed troops on the streets for months, ever since the Paris attacks," he said.
WATCH: Video footage from scene of attacks
'We all started running'
Fareed Ashraf told VOA Urdu he heard a blast shortly after entering the subway station of Maalbeek. He said he saw about 15 to 18 dead bodies and dozens of severely injured people, adding “we were fearing terrorist attacks and that has now happened”.
Ashraf said the streets of Brussels "are almost empty with security personnel everywhere."
A passenger called Veronique, who had been waiting to register for a flight to France, described the mayhem inside the Brussels airport.
“There were lots of military around with their dogs. I heard the sound of a door closing and a dog running and then it exploded and then we all started running,” she told French radio, with sounds police sirens ringing behind.
An injured woman looks on as another speaks on her mobile phone following twin blasts at Brussels airport in Zaventem on March 22, 2016.
Starbucks, US flights targeted
Passengers described the blasts taking place at a Starbucks cafe and in the terminal for flights to the United States.
“We were 3 hiding, we didn’t know whether to come or go,” another airport passenger who hid with others during the blasts told France’s BFMTV.
Alison Corney, a freelance interpreter for the EU, told VOA many people were walking home and traffic was backed up because of the complete shutdown of public transportation. She said most Brussels residents had stayed where they were following orders from Belgian authorities.
A victim receives first aid by rescuers, on March 22, 2016 near Maalbeek metro station in Brussels, after a blast at this station near the EU institutions caused deaths and injuries.