My day of terror in Brussels

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An island ex-pat has spoken of the terror in Brussels after bombers struck the city this week.

Alistair Walker, 26, from Stornoway, spoke to the Gazette from his flat in the city after a haunting day reporting on the bomb blasts which left around 34 dead and 250 wounded.

“It’s unbelievable and nothing can prepare you for this,” admitted Ali as he reflected on a difficult day.

Walker has been living and working in the city for two months as a production editor for Politico, whose offices are based less than 150 metres from the Metro station where the second blast was triggered.

It brought the enormity of the situation home for Walker who reveals some of his colleagues had been even closer to the terror.

He recounted: “I started my shift at 8am and just 20-minutes later we started getting reports of an explosion at the airport. I was in work so we launched a live feed and the Metro blast happened just after 9am.

“The Metro is only 150m from our office front door.

“That’s pretty close and our reporters were turning up for work and several had been walking past the devastation and they had seen things like people under sheets, bloodied faces.

“Most of our reporters went out to cover the story but it was a very testing day.”

He continues: “The guy at the desk next to me got off the tube the stop before the office and while in the station he heard the sound of the blast from the next station up.

“Everyone in our office is safe but you can’t help thinking about what if one of them hadn’t made it or if they had been late for their tube and got the wrong one.”

A clearly relieved Ali spoke of a mood of defiance in a city of people who refuse to bow down in the face of such atrocities.

He said: “The mood is one of defiance. People from Brussels are known for being stubborn and in the face of an incident like this they want to show stoicism rather than folding to terrorists.”

Reflecting on the mood in the city prior to the blasts Walker explained: “In the day time you feel safe and you just don’t think about it till it actually happens.

“I don’t think there was really a sense of concern before this happened. It certainly wasn’t a city on tenterhooks.

“I would say people were pretty relaxed although I will admit that when I get on the tube, even before today, I would scan other passengers but I wouldn’t say the city was waiting for this to happen.

“It is something you don’t really appreciate until it happens down to the road from you.

“I’ve had a lot of calls which has been nice to see how many are worried about me.”

The so called Islamic State (IS) have claimed responsibility for the attacks and warned more will follow.

Belgium is observing three days of national mourning.

Alistair pictured at the Parc du Cinquantenaire - approximately half a mile from the metro blast site.