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'Wall Street Journal' Reporter Describes Scene At Brussels Airport


And we turn now to Gabriele Steinhauser of The Wall Street Journal. She's in Brussels and spent much of the day at the airport where the first attack happened. And Gabriele Steinhauser, how soon after the explosions did you get to the airport, and what did you see there?

GABRIELE STEINHAUSER: I think I got there maybe 45 minutes after the attack. Basically, the taxi dropped me off at the motor (inaudible) because part of the road had already been closed. And I started walking toward the airport, and people were coming toward me who had been in the airport at the time, pulling their luggage behind them.

Some of them had been very, very close to the scene. I saw one man who had blood running down his face - a young man, a student who had been on his way with his class to Portugal and was in the departures hall by the check-in just as the two blasts went off.

People were telling me that parts of the ceiling came down. Air ducts exploded. There was quite a lot of water coming as well from broken water pipes. From what I could see when I was closer to the airport was that the front of the departure hall, which is this big glass wall, had been blown out. So people were cut by glass as well.

SIEGEL: Did any of the people you heard from who were coming from the departure hall - did any of them think they might have seen any of the suspects?

STEINHAUSER: None of them said they had seen anybody. And from what we can tell from the photos that were released by police of the suspects - I mean, they looked like tourists. They were pushing luggage carts. They were wearing glasses, hats, vests. I mean, they looked just like normal people.

One witness I spoke to who was very close and who also was covered in blood from carrying injured people away - he said that shortly before the first blast, he had heard somebody calling out in Arabic.

SIEGEL: From what you witnessed and what you heard about, did it seem that Brussels was prepared to handle a situation like this?

STEINHAUSER: Well, there were different things that we heard. One woman I spoke to who had been at the airport at the time said she felt that it was really badly organized and that, you know, security personnel there was overwhelmed. She said it took 10 minutes for security personnel to arrive after the blast and that they indeed were guided through the zone where the explosion happened even though she was in a different nearby part of the airport. And she said there was a lot of panic and chaos.

When I got to the airport, it seemed calm, and it seemed well-organized. People who - I mean, you have to image. This is a large airport. Several thousand people were in the airport at the time. Many of them were kept nearby for hours until transport could be arranged. That's a mixed pictures. The other bigger question is, of course, that the city was on heightened alert and has been for some months, and yet, this could happen...

SIEGEL: This could happen.

STEINHAUSER: ...Which, obviously, will raise some very serious questions.

SIEGEL: Just one last quick point. From what you've heard from hospitals about the kind of injuries that doctors are seeing, do we know anything more about what kind of explosives were used?

STEINHAUSER: Yes. What we were hearing is that the bombs contained glass and nails, which, of course, make injuries even worse. And from what I was hearing from witnesses, is that many people were injured in the legs and lower body parts, which, you know, indicates that the explosions went off close to the ground.

SIEGEL: Thanks a lot for telling us about what you've learned today.

STEINHAUSER: You're welcome.

SIEGEL: That's Gabriele Steinhauser, a reporter for The Wall Street Journal who's based in Brussels. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.