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BELD members discuss Brussels attacks in The Telegraph

March 23, 2016 12:57 PM

Original article can be found here: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/expat/news/brussels-attacks-expats-in-the-city-speak-of-their-shock/

Brussels attacks: expats in the city speak of their shock

brussels tributes
People write tributes on the ground at Place de la Bourse in Brussels following attacks in the city today CREDIT: KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

22 MARCH 2016 • 5:02PM

Britons living in Brussels have spoken of their shock and sadness following the terror attacks in the city this morning, which killed dozens of people and left hundreds more injured.

At least one British citizen is reported to be among those hurt after bombs exploded at Zaventem Airport and Maelbeek station, near the city's EU quarter, where many expatriates work.

Brussels attacks: live coverage

"This is very reminiscent of September 11 2001, when I was at the United Nations headquarters, which was considered to be a potential target."
George Cunningham, British diplomat in Brussels

George Cunningham, an EU official who works on Europe's relations with China, is based in an office around 500 metres from Maelbeek station.

"There have been helicopters flying overhead, buildings have been placed on lockdown and the mobile phone network has been down since this morning," he said.

Mr Cunningham was in New York during the terror attacks on September 11 2001 and said: "This is very reminiscent of that day when I was at the United Nations headquarters, which was considered to be a potential target."

On realising that he found himself, for the second time in his lifetime, in a city under attack, Mr Cunningham, who once served in the Royal Armoured Corps, said: "I just remembered a motto from my youth as an officer in the British army: 'Stand firm'.

EU official George Cunningham
Diplomat George Cunningham found himself for the second time in a city under attack, having experienced 9/11 in New York in 2001

"Of course people are on edge, however, I think British people have a certain resilience; it is not unusual for us to be faced with terrorism and there is a feeling that terror should not win."

Giles Goodall, vice chairman of the Brussels and Europe Liberal Democrats, said: "My office is close to where the metro bomb went off. The atmosphere is pretty grim, above all shock and realisation that this is still not over.

"Across the city, there is a lot of solidarity, with people offering lifts home, rooms for the night and so on like in Paris after the attacks last year."

The atmosphere is pretty grim, above all shock and realisation that this is still not over. Across the city, there is a lot of solidarity, with people offering lifts home, rooms for the night and so on like in Paris after the attacks last year."
Giles Goodall, a Lib Dem official in Brussels

Andy Round, a father of three who has lived in Brussels for ten years, said: "Ever since the November lockdown, people have been fearful. My phone has been going crazy with messages ever since the news broke today - and it's hard not to be frightened. It's hard for any of us to think rationally because you keep thinking 'my kids could have been there'. It's all so raw right now."

Laura Shields, a media trainer who has lived in Brussels for seven years, believes residents of the city will try to get on with life as normal in spite of the attacks.

"If anything, today has made me realise how much I love this city. I love it even more because of the way people have responded to this. Belgians are very stoical and community minded and this is still a very tolerant place," she said.

British officials in Brussels are being advised by the Foreign Office to avoid crowded places and the public transport network.

Meanwhile the Metropolitan Police in London have created a website for Britons in Brussels to upload pictures and videos of the terror attacks, in an effort to bring the perpetrators to justice.

Those worried about friends and relations there can call the Foreign Office helpline on +44 207 008 0000.