BRUSSELS — A car slammed at high speed into Carnival revelers in a small town in southern Belgium early Sunday, killing six people and leaving 10 more with life-threatening injuries, authorities said, adding many others were lightly injured.
“What should have been a great party turned into a tragedy,” said Belgian Interior Minister Annelies Verlinden.
The prosecutor’s office, which gave the death toll, also said two local people in their thirties were arrested at the scene in Strépy-Bracquegnies, 50 kilometers (30 miles) south of Brussels. The prosecution stated that in the early stages, they did not suspect any terror motive.
Carnival revelers gathered in the early morning, hoping to find others to join them. This tradition has been going on for over a century. Many wore colorful costumes with bells and walked to the beat of drums. This was to be a day for deliverance.
Instead, said mayor Jacques Gobert, “what happened turned it into a national catastrophe.”
Over 150 people, of every age, had already gathered at 5 AM and stood in thick lines along the long straight road. Suddenly, “a car drove from the back at high speed. And we have a few dozen injured and unfortunately several people who are killed,” Gobert said.
Two people were taken into custody after their vehicle came to an abrupt halt just a few yards further.
The threat of terror is not uncommon in Belgium, where there were twin attacks on Zaventem and Brussels that resulted in the deaths of 32 civilians.
But prosecutor Damien Verheyen said “there is no element in the investigation at this time that allows me to consider that the motivations of the two could have been terror related.”
The prosecutor’s office also denied media reports that the crash may have been caused by a car that was being chased by police.
King Philippe and Prime Minister Alexander De Croo were expected to visit Strépy-Bracquegnies later Sunday to express support for the families of the dead and those injured.
The area is very popular for Carnival. Nearby Binche has been recognized as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage.
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