Six people have been killed and 10 others were seriously injured after a car driven at high speed slammed into a group of carnival performers in Belgium, say authorities.
The vehicle hit people who had gathered at dawn on Sunday for the start of parade celebrations in the village of Strepy-Bracquegnies, which is about 30 miles south of Brussels.
The mayor of the neighbouring town of La Louviere, Jacques Gobert, told RTBF radio: “A car drove from the back at high speed. We have a few dozen injured and unfortunately several people who are killed.”
Two arrests made
The driver of the vehicle and a second person were arrested when it came to a halt.
Officers have denied media reports that the car may have been chased by police before the crash.
And the incident did not appear to be a terror attack, according to prosecutors.
Mr Gobert said around 150 people were gathered to get ready for the annual folklore parade, involving costumes and drums, when the vehicle approached.
“A speeding car drove into the crowd…The driver then continued on his way,” he said.
‘People were screaming, it was horrible’
A reporter who witnessed the tragedy, Bel RTL’s Fabrice Collignon, said: “We were on a long straight line and there was more or less 150 people. We heard a huge noise coming from behind the company and the car literally drove into the group of people.
“It’s a scene I never thought I’d see in my life. Everyone was on the ground. People were screaming. There was music and smiles and three seconds later, it was screaming. It was horrible.”
Belgian interior minister Annelies Verlinden said: “What should have been a great party turned into a tragedy.”
French language media outlet RTBF reported that the driver attempted to continue along the road following the collision around 5am local time (4am UK) but was intercepted.
It said the group had just left the Omnisports hall to go, via the Rue des Canadiens, towards the centre when the collision happened.
Belgium’s King Philippe and Prime Minister Alexander De Croo were expected to visit the area later in the day.
It was the first time the Strepy carnival had taken place since being cancelled in 2020 and 2021 because of the COVID pandemic.