Rescue services continued searching for victims under the rubble of buildings destroyed by an explosion in the Paardenmarkt area in Antwerp that claimed two lives and injured at least 14 persons, one of them critically, on Monday night. The explosion damaged seven buildings. Three apartment blocks collapsed, seven persons were rescued from the rubble overnight while 22 persons had to spend the night in a shelter, a hotel or with relatives and friends.
Emergency repairs were also being carried out on Tuesday on buildings damaged, but not destroyed, by the explosion to enable residents to return home as soon as possible. According to the Antwerp fire service, some damaged walls threatened to collapse, while others sustained significant damage but there was no risk that they would fall.
The cause of the explosion was not immediately known. One survivor and some passers-by mentioned an odour of gas.
Belgium’s King Philippe arrived in Antwerp at 1.45 p.m. on Tuesday and visited the scene of the disaster, as well as the mobile fire fighters’ headquarters. The king was accompanied by Prime Minister Charles Michel, the Governor of Antwerp Province, Cathy Berx, Antwerp Mayor Bart de Wever and the head of the communal disaster plan, Bart Bruelemans.