Following the riots in Brussels centre after the World Cup football match between Belgium and Morocco last Sunday, the Brussels authorities are activating the regional crisis centre to avoid a repeat during the decisive matches at 16:00 today (Thursday): Croatia-Belgium and Canada-Morocco.
Last weekend, lots of Morocco fans took to the streets of Brussels to celebrate their 2-0 win against Belgium. However, the party turned into a riot after groups of fans near Brussels Midi Station were met by police, resulting in considerable damage to public and private property.
"Today, we will be very vigilant and we will be visible from the beginning of the match with more police officers on the ground," Ilse Van de keere, spokesperson for the Brussels-Capital/Ixelles police zone, told The Brussels Times.
The regional crisis centre – a centre that is used to coordinate all Brussels' services during large events such as the end-of-year festivities, big manifestations or other events – will be activated to facilitate the cooperation between the local police zones, the federal police, the fire brigade and the medical services, as will the mayor of Brussels City.
Potentially closing metro stations
"The centre is set up for events where we involve other partners. It is an integrated disposition, and our police chief will take the lead," Van de keere said. "This way, as soon as someone receives useful information, the right people can be dispatched."
People from the Brussels public transport company STIB will also be present and ready to suspend part of its network depending on the course of events, as was already the case on Sunday.
"We will follow the guidelines of the police, as they have the best idea of what is necessary for safety," STIB spokesperson An Van hamme confirmed to The Brussels Times. "If that means closing certain stations or rerouting trams and buses again, we will of course do so if the police tell us to do so (like last Sunday)."
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Some stations of the network, such as Lemonnier, are expected to not be served for a certain period of time at the end of the afternoon, while access to other stations will be limited to control the flow of passengers.
Whether the crisis centre will be activated for all further matches played by Belgium or Morocco (if they make it to the next round) is not yet sure, and will be looked at on a case-by-case basis, said Van de keere.