Explosions rocked crowded areas in Brussels Tuesday, claiming lives and spreading panic. The attacks, for which ISIS has claimed responsibility, have so far killed more than 30 people. At least three Americans have been injured in these attacks as well.
Four Texas Tech students were in Brussels at the time of the attacks but, the university has made contact with all of the students and confirmed that they are safe, said Ambassador Tibor Nagy, Vice Provost for International Affairs at Texas Tech University.
He explained that these students are doing a study-abroad program in Seville, Spain, but they opted to spend their Spring Break in Belgium.
“As soon as I turned on the TV I saw what happened in Belgium and my first thought was, did we have any students visiting there?” Nagy said.
Nagy has spent decades in international affairs, he served as a U.S. ambassador to Ethiopia and Guinea. He explained that he also monitors international safety and advisories every day for Texas Tech students studying abroad
Texas Tech has four employees in Seville, Spain to coordinate the TTU study abroad program there, and by the time he called the Seville employees, they had already confirmed that all of the Tech students in Brussels were safe.
“Our office in Seville had already taken a check to see where their students were, since it’s already spring break week when a lot of the students take side trips around Europe. [They said] there were four students who had gone to Brussels, they had checked and verified that they were ok,” Nagy said. “They were in their hotel.”
Now the complication for those Texas Tech students will be returning to their program in Spain. For now, they cannot leave Brussels because transportation has been shut down throughout the city after the attacks.
Nagy explained that these attacks are one of many dangerous, international events which have limited student travel from places which would otherwise be top destinations.
“Take a place like Belgium, Belgium was near the top of the list for tourists not too long ago,” Nagy said. “But given the recent history, we will not be having a program in Brussels or Belgium this summer and we won’t be having a program there in the fall either. Belgium has some, inherent problems on the safety security side, at least for the immediate future. “
Outside of Tuesday’s attacks, Nagy said that threat levels have been raised in Belgium because of the large numbers of Belgians who have joined ISIS’ ranks.
Additionally, recent political instability and terror attacks have also pushed TTU to eliminate student travel to Turkey and the Middle East.
“Unfortunately, the world is full of what we’d call soft targets, and unfortunately there’s a correlation between how free a society is and how easy it is for the bad guys to do awful stuff there,” Nagy said.
Nagy added that it is devastating to see the tragedy which unfolds during and after attacks like the ones in Brussels. As a man who has spent his life working in international affairs, it is also hard for Nagy to watch as places like Brussels become more dangerous for visitors.
“It’s a gorgeous city, its a beautiful city, the Grand Square is one of the loveliest sights in the world, and for treasures like that to not be appreciated by tourists, it’s very sad,” he said.
Texas Tech’s managing director of communications, Chris Cook, said that TTU has 89 students studying abroad in Europe presently, but none of those students are doing a specific program in Belgium.
During the attacks there were two explosions at the Brussels Airport in Zaventem, Belgium, where officials said at least 14 people were killed.
There was also an explosion at the Maelbeek subway station, where at least 20 people were killed.
As ABC News reports, local officials estimate that more than 180 people were injured.
The U.S. Embassy in Brussels, Belgium issued a statement in light of these attacks, recommending sheltering in place and avoiding all public transportation. As the statement explained that Belgium is now at threat rating of Level 4 which indicates ” serious and imminent attack.”