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Belgium pays tribute to victims of Brussels terror attacks five years on

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Representatives of victims and others carry flowers and photos at Brussels Airport
Representatives of victims and others carry flowers and photos at Brussels Airport   -   Copyright  (Stephanie Lecocq, Pool via AP
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Five years ago today (Monday) a series of coordinated terrorist attacks took 32 lives and injured more than 300 people in Brussels.

Two of the blasts ripped through Zaventem airport in the crowded departure area. It was a scene of panic, shock and devastation.

While Belgium holds commemorations for the victims, the memories are still vivid for some of the survivors.

Laurens Coessen was left with a burned face, and shrapnel went into his stomach and legs.

"I know exactly what I thought and felt at that moment, I can hear the sound of the explosion, and I have seen and heard terrible things," he said.

Former professional basketball player Sebastien Bellin spent four months in hospital - and has had thirteen operations. With a metal pin in each leg, his rehabilitation continues.

"Of course, there are days that are not easy. It's not always the greatest joy not to be able to feel my leg, not to be able to do things that I used to do very naturally before. But on the other hand, I think that the greatest hardships in life are also the most beautiful lessons in life," he said.

An hour after the blasts at the airport, an explosion hit Maalbeek metro station in the Belgian capital, near to the EU headquarters buildings.

Charlotte Dixon-Sutcliffe lost her husband David Dixon. She now chairs a Survivors Against Terror organisation to support victims of atrocities.

"Although we've come from different attacks motivated by different ideologies, our experiences are incredibly similar. You know we have our own stories but there are a lot of similarities, and one of them is around that sort of feeling of abandonment you know, of a state not looking after us in a way that it promises," she said.

Belgium's King Philippe and Queen Mathilde started the commemorations on Monday at Brussels airport alongside Prime Minister Alexander De Croo.

They met victims and their relatives after Philippe laid flowers in front of a memorial plaque. They then proceeded to Maalbeek metro station.

Earlier this year, 10 people, including the lone known surviving suspect in the 2015 deadly Paris attacks, were ordered to stand trial in connection with the Brussels suicide bombings.