World

Brussels attacks: Victims from Peru, Colombia ID'd as nations scramble to locate citizens

Adelma Tapia lived in Brussels with her husband.

Adelma Tapia lived in Brussels with her husband.  (facebook)

One Peruvian woman was among the people killed Tuesday during the early morning terrorist attacks in Brussels, family members have confirmed. Two Colombians were injured, one seriously.

Bombs exploded Tuesday at the Brussels airport and on the city's subway, killing at least 31 people and wounding more than 180. Many of the people at the airport were foreign nationals, and countries around the world are trying to locate citizens among the casualties of the attacks.

The Venezuelan attorney, Ingrid Trujillo, who lives in Chicago, described a chaotic scene at the airport.

"The first explosion blew out the windows," she told the South Florida radio station, Actualidad 1020 AM

Trujillo had just checked in for a flight to Barcelona with her aunt and uncle, she said. "We trying to find a way out when I saw the second explosion, 10 or 15 paces away from me. That one struck with more force, as the ceiling began to fall in, and people were falling to the ground."

At least one of the explosions was caused by a suicide bomber.

The death of a Peruvian woman, Adelma Tapia, was confirmed to Peruvian media by her brother Fernando Tapia. He said his sister, 37, was at the Brussels airport waiting for a flight to New York City when she was hit by one of two blasts. Her Belgium husband and her 3-year-old twin daughters were with her and had minor injuries, the brother told the cable news station, Canal N.

"The girls apparently were running around the hallway, my sister stayed in one of the gates at the Brussels Airport where the suicide bombing occurred," he said.

In Colombia, President Juan Manuel Santos said in a statement via Twitter that two Colombians are among the dozens of people injured in the attack, for which the Islamic State group claimed responsibility.

El Tiempo newspaper identified the Colombians as 42-year-old Felipe Duque and 53-year-old Mauricio Villegas Martínez, who had visited the Belgian capital and were headed back home.

Meanwhile, Eloy Cantu, Mexico's ambassador to Belgium, told reporters there are three Mexicans believed to have been at the airport who have not been located hours after the attack.

About an hour after the airport blasts, another bomb exploded on a rush-hour subway train near the European Union headquarters. Terrified passengers had to flee through darkened tunnels to safety.

"What we feared has happened," Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel said. "In this time of tragedy, this black moment for our country, I appeal to everyone to remain calm but also to show solidarity."

Belgium raised its terror alert to the highest level, diverting planes and trains and ordering people to stay where they were for most of the workday. Airports across Europe — and in the New York area — tightened security.

"We are at war," French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said after a crisis meeting in Paris. "We have been subjected for the last few months in Europe to acts of war."

Added French President François Hollande: "Terrorists struck Brussels, but it was Europe that was targeted, and it is all the world which is concerned by this."

European security officials have been bracing for a major attack for weeks and warned that the Islamic State group was actively preparing to strike. The arrest Friday of Salah Abdeslam, a key suspect in the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris, heightened those fears, as investigators said many more people were involved than originally thought and that some are still on the loose.

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the Brussels attacks, saying in a post on the group's Amaq news agency that its extremists opened fire in the airport and "several of them" detonated suicide belts. It said another suicide attacker struck in the subway. The post claimed the attack was in response to Belgium's support of the international coalition arrayed against the group.

Authorities found and neutralized a third bomb at the airport once the chaos after the two initial blasts had eased, said Florence Muls, a spokeswoman for the airport told The Associated Press. Bomb squads also detonated suspicious objects found in at least two locations elsewhere in the capital, but neither contained explosives, authorities said.

The AP contributed to this report.

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