Brussel’s firemen are expressing outrage after being targeted by thugs hurling fireworks during New Year’s Eve celebrations.
Belgian media outlets report that firefighters, along with other emergency services including the police and paramedics, came under attack.
The incidents come amid fears over a rising level of violence and crime in the city.
These attacks were not “random acts or vandalism but targeted criminal acts”, said Walter Derieuw, spokesman for the Brussels firefighters.
“Our vehicles and personnel have been targeted with projectiles and horizontally-shot firework.
“We absolutely do not understand why, as paramedics, we are victims of gratuitous aggression”, he added.
Emergency services conducted a total of 663 interventions during New Year’s Eve, including 251 by firefighters and 412 by ambulances. On the police side, 206 people were arrested: 170 administrative arrests and 36 judicial arrests.
On 47 occasions, the Belgian police had to accompany the Brussels firefighters to give them protection as they carried out their operations.
A total of 32 cars were also torched during the night.
Het viel mee zeggen ze dan, geen grote incidenten?????? pic.twitter.com/VQLmo7GTGb
— P-magazine (@Pmagazine) January 2, 2024
The SLFP union of emergency services sounded the alarm, declaring that years of “preventive measures” had proven futile.
“Preventive measures taken for years are useless,” the union stated, urging tougher enforcement of laws.
During one rescue of a family of five from a fire, emergency responders were targeted with fireworks aimed at them, putting them at serious risk of injury.
The emergency service’s union condemned “bands of savages” and pointed to videos showing miscreants brazenly attacked its members. The union questioned whether there was a “deliberate tolerance” for such attacks in order to prevent escalation. It also pointed to what it said was evidence of premeditated intentions given items found in possession of some troublemakers.
Ans Persoons, the Brussels regional state secretary for emergency services, deemed the attacks “totally unacceptable”, decrying the fact that, despite spending the night rescuing people, firefighters and paramedics encountered violence and attacks during their critical work.
Firefighters and police, responding to emergencies and what are believed to have been intentional fires, faced continuous threats from thugs wielding firecrackers and fireworks. At least three firefighters are reported to have been injured.
As a Brussels Signal reporter, I was present for the turn of the year on the Mont des Arts, one of the better vantage points offering views over the city of Brussels. At midnight the entire city could be seen lighting up, despite Brussels’ regional ban on the general use of fireworks.
The sites visible to me included several squares in the city centre, where some revellers shot off fireworks in the middle of the crowds.
At point there was even a pair of teenagers running around and firing fireworks at each other, apparently in some kind of duel.