Peruvian mum of twins, Belgian law student among Brussels dead

People leave flowers and candles in memory of the victims of the Brussels airport and metro bombings on March 23, 2016.
People leave flowers and candles in memory of the victims of the Brussels airport and metro bombings on March 23, 2016. PHOTO: AFP

BRUSSELS (AFP) - They came from Peru, Morocco, North America and Europe, and their lives – whether as a mother, civil servant, student or missionary – were just as diverse.

This is the picture slowly emerging of those caught up in the airport and metro bomb attacks in Brussels on Tuesday, which killed 31 people and injured 270 more.

Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders said around 40 nationalities were among the dead and wounded, reflecting the cosmopolitan nature of Brussels – the symbolic capital of Europe.

They included citizens of Britain, Colombia, Ecuador, France, Germany, Hungary, Portugal, Romania, Spain and the United States.

Among the first fatalities named was Adelma Marina Tapia Ruiz, a 37-year-old woman from Pucallpa in the Peruvian Amazon, who had lived in Belgium for nine years.

She was killed in the two blasts at Brussels airport, where she had been about to travel to New York with her Belgian journalist husband Christophe Delcambe and their three-year-old twin daughters.

The others survived the blast as the girls had run off and Delcambe had chased after them, though one of the girls was wounded by flying debris.

“They took away everything she wanted to do with her life,” her brother Fernando Tapia told Peruvian media, after she was identified by the foreign ministry in Lima.

Tapia had studied as a chef and wanted to open a restaurant in Brussels, the family was quoted as saying.

Doctor Muriel Brugmans, who treated her in hospital, said on Facebook: “Tonight I’m thinking very much about my patient, mother of two adorable little girls.

“She was... so worried for her daughters.”

 
 

The task of identifying the dead was proving to be a painstakingly slow one, with names only gradually emerging as experts pored over the remains of victims at both attack sites.

The process has been “complicated by the particularly violent explosions and also because there are a lot of foreigners,” a federal police spokesman told RTBF television.

Another victim named was 20-year-old Belgian law student Leopold Hecht.

He was killed in the attack on a metro train close to the EU’s institutional hub, said Pierre Jadoul, the rector of Brussels’ Saint-Louis University.

“There are no words to describe our distress,” he said.

Naji Masri, a student in Hecht’s year at university, told AFP: “He was a good student, always in the front row.

Civil servant Olivier Delespesse was named among the dead by his employer, the Federation Wallonie-Bruxelles. He was killed in the metro attack, local media reported.

His old friend Francois Mespreuves recounted evenings spent with Delespesse during which he sang songs by Georges Brassens, the French singer and poet.

Newspaper front pages around the world carried a picture of Indian flight attendant Nidhi Chaphekar in the tattered remains of her yellow Jet Airways jacket with blood running down her face.

Her family said they had not managed to contact her but were flying out to join the 40-year-old mother of two.

“All we know is that she is in stable condition now,” her brother-in-law Nilesh Chaphekar told AFP, adding: “It has been a very traumatic experience.”

Jet Airways said that both Chaphekar and Amit Motwani, another employee also hurt in the airport blasts, were both recovering well.

A Facebook page where worried relatives and friends can post notices of the missing has been set up. Pictures of men and women, young and old, from Belgium, the United States, Britain and beyond.

A woman from Morocco was killed in the metro attack, according to Moroccan news agency MAP, which said three other Moroccans were unaccounted for.

At least 21 Portuguese nationals were injured, minister Jose Luis Carneiro said, according to the Lusa news agency.

Rome said it was “highly likely” that an Italian woman had been killed in the metro explosion.

London said one British national was missing and four injured, while several other capitals said their nationals had been wounded.

Mason Wells, 19, was one of three Mormon missionaries from Utah in the United States who were seriously wounded in the airport blasts.

In a twist of fate, Wells had attended the Boston marathon in April 2013 which was hit by a bomb blast, and had been in Paris during the November 2015 attacks.

have gone to Brussels to identify the body.