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. Many others were slightly injured, the AP reports. "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, 30 miles south of Brussels. Prosecutors said, in the early stages of their investigation, there were no elements to suspect a terror motive.
In an age-old tradition, Carnival revelers had gathered at dawn, intending to pick up others at their homes along the way, to finally hold their famous festivity again after it was banned for the past two years to counter the spread of COVID-19. Some dressed in colorful garb with bells attached, walking behind the beat of drums. It was supposed to be a day of deliverance. Instead, said Mayor Jacques Gobert, "what happened turned it into a national catastrophe." More than 150 people of all ages had gathered around 5am and were standing in a thick crowd along a long, straight road. Suddenly, "a car drove from the back at high speed,” Gobert said.
The driver and a second person were arrested when their car came to a halt a few hundred yards further on. Since Belgium was hit with twin terror attacks in Brussels and Zaventem that killed 32 civilians six years ago, thoughts of terrorism are never far away. But the prosecutor said there's no reason to suspect that. The prosecutor's office also denied media reports that the crash may have been caused by a car 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 victims. Carnival is extremely popular in the area; festivities in nearby Binche have been declared a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage.
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