BRUSSELS — Sirens of emergency vehicles blared for hours as Brussels became a paralyzed city Tuesday, says the mayor of a Quebec town who was staying at a hotel close to the subway station that was attacked.
Drummondville Mayor Alexandre Cusson and a colleague were headed to the Belgian federal parliament for meetings when they learned of the attacks at the city's airport and subway, which together killed at least 31 people and wounded 187 others.
"We were at the hotel around 8:30 a.m. when we were informed about what happened," he told The Canadian Press.
"Of course we are shaken by events but we're continuing to do our job."
"The area became very busy and we heard the sounds of sirens and emergency vehicles for hours. Since then the public transport system, trains, buses, metro and the airport —nothing has been working. People are waiting hours to get taxis. It's a paralyzed city."
Cusson said officials from Quebec's government office in Brussels contacted them to make sure they were safe.
"They strongly suggested we stay at the hotel all day," he said. "So all of our meetings today were cancelled."
Michel Audet, Quebec's delegate-general in Brussels, said his employees were on their way to the office when the attacks occurred.
"I had to do a head count and went about tracking down those who weren't there," he said in an interview.
Quebec's delegation office is a short walk from the Maelbeek subway station, where the explosion occurred.
Audet said he was in contact with both the Quebec and Canadian governments and his office remained open to assist Quebecers on the ground in Brussels.
In 'crisis-management mode'
"Of course we are shaken by events but we're continuing to do our job," he said. "We have a responsibility toward Quebecers and to our daily activities."
Audet said there will definitely be fallout from the attacks.
"Today, we're in crisis-management mode, looking after victims and making sure people are OK but there will need to be psychological healing," he said. "This is a major emotional shock for many people. They will have to learn to take public transit, the metro, again."
— With files from Magdaline Boutros in Montreal
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