At least four people have died after a vehicle rammed into a group celebrating carnival this morning in the town of Strépy-Bracquegnies, in southern Belgium, the French-speaking channels RTBF and RTL reported. The local police lowered the initially given figure of five deaths to four, and also reported 7 serious injuries and 15 minor injuries, according to the RTBF.
The Police have arrested two suspects after the outrage, the people who were traveling in the vehicle involved. The mayor of the city, Jacques Gobert, activated the disaster plan. “A car going at full speed ran over the crowd that had gathered to see Gilles pick up. The driver continued on his way, but we intercepted him”, indicated the alderman in statements collected by the newspaper ‘Le Soir’.
According to witnesses, at around 5:00 a.m. a vehicle “appeared out of nowhere” ran over several dozen people who were accompanying a group of Gilles, a traditional character from the Binche carnival (whose celebration has been recognized as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO) and other towns in southern Belgium.
A sports center as an emergency center
Eight ambulances arrived at the scene to help the injured and the city’s sports center has been set up as an emergency center, in which a cell of psychologists attends to the people who attended this carnival celebration.
“There are no words, it is horror. Arriving at the scene some time after the catastrophe, seeing those bodies scattered on the road, people suffering… You cannot imagine that this could exist and, unfortunately, that is what is happening. There are no words, it’s dramatic,” Gobert said.
RTL presenter Fabrice Collignon, who was taking part in the celebrations, recounted that the group, of about 150 people according to him, was making its way through the city when suddenly “we heard a big noise coming from the back and the car crashed literally against the group of people.”
“It was a scene I never thought I would see in my life. The car accelerated and when we realized that something was happening, everyone was on the ground. People shouted. There was music and smiles and three seconds later, screams. It was horrible,” she described.
The Belgian Minister of the Interior, Annelies Verlinden, has contacted the mayor, among other things, to find out if a terrorist attack can be ruled out.