Turnbull: Blasts struck near our embassy in Brussels
- Worried about friends or family? Phone DFAT: 1300 535 555 or +61 2 6261 3305 if calling from overseas.
THERE are so far no confirmed Australian casualties in the attacks on Brussels that killed 34, injured hundreds and shocked the world.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull warned "it is still very early days".
The explosions at the Maelbeek railway station was a short distance from the Australian Embassy and it was used often by personnel.
Mr Turnbull described the attacks as "cowardly" and offered the wounded nation Australia's thoughts, prayers and support.
"Australians condemn these cowardly attacks in Brussels and the people of Belgium have our thoughts and our prayers are with them but, above all, our most resolute solidarity," he said.
"We are utterly and completely united in the fight against terrorism, in the fight against terrorism, in the fight against this sort of cowardly violence."
Australia's key security officials including those from ASIO and the Australian Federal Police were brought together this morning in response to the terrorism attacks.
Mr Turnbull said there would not be an increase to Australia's threat level, or a change to airport security nationally.
He said unlike the Belgian capital, Australia's geography made it more difficult for terrorists to strike.
"We are in a much stronger position from a security point of view their Brussels, their the Europeans are," he said.
"The reality is, of course, that we have the benefits of geography.
"We have much stronger control over our borders, as Australians are very aware.
"Our borders are secure because we have secured them. In Europe, of course, there is effectively no internal borders and their external borders are anything but secure and we have been seeing that unfolding tragedy on our TV screens for some time now.
"We have a very focussed intelligence operation to prevent terrorist attacks and there have been six disruptions of terrorist operations here in Australia recently.
"The government, we do everything we can, as to state governments, everything we can to keep Australians safe but of course there can be no guarantees."
It follows a statement overnight from Foreign Minister Julie Bishop who announced changes to the travel advisory for Australians travelling to Belgium. Read her full statement below.
AUSTRALIANS WARNED AGAINST TRAVEL TO BELGIUM
THE Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has just updated its travel advice for Belgium.
It came as Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull offered the "thoughts, prayers and solidarity" of the Australian people to those affected by the attacks on Brussels.
Deeply concerned by the attacks in Brussels. Australians' thoughts, prayers & solidarity are with the people of Belgium.— Malcolm Turnbull (@TurnbullMalcolm) 22 March 2016
On Tuesday night, DFAT's official advice was for travelers to exercise a high degree of caution, now, the department is encouraging people to reconsider their need to travel.
Facebook has activated its safety check feature for Brussels, to allow people in the city, to tell their friends they are safe.
It is understood Belgium's public transport network has been shutdown in the wake of a series of explosions that have killed an estimated 21 people.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop says the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is trying to establish whether or not any Australians are among the dead or injured in Brussels.
The Belgian capital was rocked by two separate bomb blasts - one at the Zaventem Airport and another at a central metro station - about two hours ago.
"The Australian Government condemns what appears to be coordinated terror attacks on our system," Ms Bishop said in statement.
"Our thoughts and sympathies are with the people of Belgium.
"DFAT is seeking to determine if any Australians have been affected."
The Australian Government condemns the coordinated terror attacks on 22 March in Belgium. Our thoughts and sympathies are with the people of Belgium.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is urgently seeking to determine whether any Australians have been affected.
I understand Belgian authorities have activated their emergency plan in response to these attacks and increased the national threat level to its maximum level.
We have upgraded our travel advice for Belgium to advise Australian travellers to reconsider their need to travel. Australians in Brussels should remain attentive to their surroundings, avoid affected areas and follow the instructions of local authorities.
I have spoken with our Ambassador Dr Mark Higgie for an assessment of the situation and confirmation that our Embassy staff and their families are safe.
If you have any concerns for the welfare of family and friends in the region you should attempt to contact them directly. If you are unable to contact them and still hold concerns for their welfare you should call the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade 24 hour Consular Emergency Centre on 1300 555 135 or +61 2 6261 3305 if calling from overseas.
Read the full updated travel advice on Belgium below:
We advise you to reconsider your need to travel to Belgium in Belgium due to the high threat of terrorist attack.
The domestic terrorism threat for Belgium is level 4 of 4. See Safety & security.
Following the 13 November terrorist attacks in Paris, Belgian police have conducted a number of anti-terror raids and arrested several suspected militants in Belgium.
On 28 December, Belgian authorities arrested two men who were alleged to have been planning an attack in Brussels over the New Year's period.
In August 2015 a terrorist boarded the Thalys Brussels-Paris train and then conducted an attack that injured three people while the train was travelling in northern France. In May 2014, a terrorist killed four people at the Jewish Museum in Brussels.
Expect enhanced security measures as well as an increased police and military presence, including at airports and international railway stations across Belgium.
We advise you to keep an increased level of vigilance in places with high concentrations of people including concerts, major events, train stations and airports, public transport, and shopping districts.
Follow the media for information regarding your safety, follow the instructions of local authorities and report any suspicious activities to police.
There has been a significant influx of asylum seekers into Europe, causing localised disruption to cross-border road and train transport services. Travellers should be aware of the possibility of further disruptions, make appropriate contingency plans and follow the instructions of local authorities.
- Travellers should be alert to crime in Belgium, particularly in Brussels, Antwerp and other urban areas. Theft, muggings, bag snatching and pickpocketing are common in Brussels, particularly around major train stations. More serious robberies and assaults can also occur.