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Brussels attacks: Warning orders sent to wrong address

A commission has heard the email was sent to the personal email account of the chief of railway police.

FILE: A picture released on 22 March, 2016 by the belgian federal police on demand of the Federal prosecutor shows a screengrab of the airport CCTV camera showing suspects of this morning's attacks at Brussels Airport, in Zaventem. Picture: AFP.

LONDON - An enquiry in to the terrorist attack on the Brussels metro in March has heard an order which should have closed the network an hour before the bombing, was sent to the wrong address.

A commission has heard the email was wrongly sent to the personal email account of the chief of railway police instead of his official account.

Following the suicide bombings at the airport two separate attempts to alert the relevant authorities at the Metro failed to get through.

Twenty-one after the first warning was sent, but not received, a third suicide bomber blew himself up on a metro train in central Brussels, killing 16.

The chief of railway police for the Brussels region, told the commission it took almost an hour for authorities to decide to shut down the city's public transport system.

He also said some text messages he tried to transmit from his cellphone are still stuck in the outbox.

ECONOMY NOT BADLY AFFECTED

Belgium's economy is unlikely to have suffered a major setback from the 22 March bombings in Brussels but some sectors may feel the strain, Belgian central bank governor Jan Smets said.

"The macro impact is modest and the experience from such tragic events in other countries shows that the economic effect is mostly short-lived," Smets told Reuters in an interview.

The European Commission lowered its economic outlook for Belgium after the attacks, saying it now expected growth of 1.2 percent in 2016, down from its previous forecast of 1.3 percent, due in part to the militant Islamist attacks.

According to the Belgian central bank's flash estimate, economic growth in the first quarter of 2016 slowed to 0.2 percent from 0.5 percent, below the euro zone average of 0.6 percent.

Smets said growth in the first quarter could have been between 0.03 and 0.1 percentage points higher without the attacks, citing the importance of Brussels' airport to the Belgian economy.

"You also see some impact in some segments such as hotels, mainly in the Brussels region," he added.

Smets stressed the importance of the Belgian government balancing its budget in the coming years in order to reduce its public debt level, which stood at 106.5 percent of annual economic output in 2014.

The government aims to have a balanced budget by 2018, though the European Commission still estimates a 2.3 percent structural deficit for 2016, requiring additional cutbacks.

"Sufficient structural measures should be taken in 2016 and 2017 to make sure their structural return is guaranteeing a structural balance, within the horizon of the stability programme," Smets said.

Additional information by Reuters.

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