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Brussels: May take weeks for airport to fully reopen; death toll lowered to 32

By Andrew V. Pestano and Doug G. Ware   |   March 29, 2016 at 3:13 PM
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BRUSSELS, March 29 (UPI) -- It could take months for Brussels Airport in Zaventem to return to full capacity after last week's coordinated bombings, the facility's chief said Tuesday.

Two suicide bombers detonated explosives at Zaventem a week ago, and explosives belonging to a third attacker there did not go off, investigators said. Damage to the airport was extensive.

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Zaventem CEO Arnaud Feist said the airport will reopen Wednesday at less than a quarter capacity, as ongoing tests are carried out to determine if flights can resume.

About 800 airport employees were asked to return to work Monday to test temporary arrangements such as a transitional check-in area.

"The provisional structure will not be able to absorb the usual number we had before the attacks," Feist said Tuesday. "Although the structure of the building is intact, it will all have to be rebuilt, from the air conditioning to the check-in desks. And that will take months."

The airport needs government approval to reopen. Officials said they will initially aim to process about 1,000 passengers per hour instead of the usual average of 5,000.

The bombings targeted the airport and a nearby subway station, killing dozens and wounding hundreds more on March 22. Nearly 100 people remain hospitalized.

The official death toll was lowered from 35 to 32 on Tuesday, officials said. The confusion resulted from two lists identifying people who died at the scene and at the hospital.

"It appears that three people were on both lists," health ministry official Geert Gijs said.

European Union institutions in Brussels reopened on Tuesday with increased security presence. Police continue to search for a man seen in surveillance footage alongside the suspected bombers.

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