Two packed commuter trains crashed head-on outside of Brussels in the morning rush hour, killing at least 25 people, according to Belgian media reports. The local trains collided near Halle, some 15 kilometres southwest of Brussels at 8:30 a.m.
National broadcaster VRT said 25 people were killed, but officials from the train line operator were unable to immediately confirm that figure. Train services, including the high-speed line between Brussels and Paris, were blocked. The operator Thalys says three trains are involved and advises passengers to change their travel plans.
A spokesman for Eurostar, the high-speed passenger rail service connecting London with Brussels warned that "it is possible that services will remain suspended all day." Two carriages have been completely destroyed in the crash according to early reports. Infrabel, the train operator, has confirmed that there are tens of people seriously injured.
The accident occurred during the rush hour as people were travelling to work. One train was travelling from the direction of Louvain and was on its way to Braine-le-Comte the other was coming from Quiévrain and was going to Liège.
The overhead cables have been severely damaged by the accident and train travel on the lines between Brussels and Doornik and Brussels and Bergen has ground to a halt.
A crisis centre has been set up and the emergency services have arrived en masse at the scene. The cause of the accident is not known.
Scores of reactions are pouring in to Belgian websites reporting the crash. People are reacting with a mixture of disbelief and anger that this has happened.
"How is it that two trains can collide head-on, this means that one was on the wrong track. Are there no safety systems that prevent this type of blunder from happening?” said one reaction to the online edition of newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws.
“Lucky it is a holiday today, otherwise they would have been even more people on the trains,” said another reaction to the site.