“What was supposed to be a big party turned into a tragedy,” said Belgian Interior Minister Annelis Verlinden.
Prosecutors, who named the death toll, also said two locals in their thirties were arrested at the scene in Strepi-Braken, 50 kilometers (30 miles) south of Brussels. Prosecutors said there was no evidence in the early stages of their investigation to suspect a motive for terrorism.
According to age-old tradition, carnival revelers gathered at dawn, intending to pick up others in their homes along the way to finally re-celebrate their famous holiday after it was banned for the past two years to counter the spread of COVID-19. Some, dressed in colorful costumes with attached bells, go under the drums. It was to be a day of salvation.
Instead, Mayor Jacques Gober said, “what happened turned it into a national catastrophe.”
More than 150 people of all ages gathered around 5 a.m. and stood in dense crowds on the long straight road. Suddenly, “a car drove out of the back at high speed. And we have several dozen injured and, unfortunately, several people killed,” said Robert.
The driver and another man were detained when their car stopped a few hundred meters (yards) away.
As two terrorist attacks took place in Belgium six years ago in Brussels and Zaventem, killing 32 civilians, thoughts about the motives for terrorism never go away.
But prosecutor Damien Verhaegen said that “at the moment there are no elements in the investigation that allow me to believe that the motives of the two could be related to terror.”
The prosecutor’s office also denied media reports that the cause of the accident could be a car chased by police.
King Philip and Prime Minister Alexander De Crew were expected to visit Strepi-Bracken later Sunday to express support for the families of the dead and injured.
Carnival is very popular in the area. Carnival festivities in nearby Binche have even been declared a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Site.
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