Brussels airport delays reopening

epa05234465 An Airbus A319 of Brussels Airlines stands at Brussels Zaventem airport in Brussels, Belgium, 29 March 2016. A test run is scheduled for 30 March aimed at bringing operations at Zaventem airport back ot 20 percent of its actual capacity. Operations were completely halted after the 22 March terrorist attacks at the airport and a metro station in downtown Brussels which claimed some 35 lives and injured hundreds.  EPA/LAURENT DUBRULE

Brussels / AFP

Brussels airport said it would not reopen on Wednesday despite drills to test resuming partial services after the suicide bombings that struck its departure hall and a metro train, as Belgium lowered the death toll to 32.
Zaventem airport has been closed since twin bombings wrecked the departure hall on March 22, in coordinated suicide attacks that were claimed by the IS group and which also hit Maalbeek metro station in central Brussels.
A total of 32 people were killed in Belgium’s worst-ever attacks, the government said, down from an earlier toll of 35 following confusion between two lists of people who had died at the scene and in hospital.
“After thorough verification: number of victims goes down to 32. Still 94 people in hospital,” Health Minister Maggie de Block tweeted.
All the victims have now been identified —many of them foreign nationals, testament to the cosmopolitan nature of a city that is home to both the European Union and NATO.
Hundreds of employees returned to the airport Tuesday for a large-scale test run to determine if services could partially resume from Wednesday—but those hopes were dashed.
Airport spokeswoman Anke Fransen said authorities were reviewing the results of the practice run, adding: “We hope to reach a decision on a partial reopening of the airport in the course of (Wednesday) morning.”
The airport’s chief executive Arnaud Feist has warned it could take “months” for Zaventem to be fully operational again.
Air Brussels said it was experiencing “the most serious crisis” in its history because of the closure, with some five million euros a day in lost earnings.
The city’s metro system was set to be largely back to normal again from Wednesday, apart from Maelbeek station where the bombing took place.
In the Portuguese town of Leiria, emotional football fans fell silent for a minute on Tuesday night at the start of a friendly match against Belgium that was supposed to take place in Brussels.
The Belgian team, who lost 2-1, wore shirts that read: “In memory of all victims, Brussels, 22.03.2016.”
As Brussels struggles to get back on its feet, criticism of authorities’ handling of the case has mounted after the sole suspect charged over the attacks was freed on Monday for lack of evidence.
Prosecutors had charged the suspect, named by media as Faycal Cheffou, with “terrorist murder” and were investigating whether he was the third airport attacker who fled after his bomb did not detonate.

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