A car crashed into a crowd of early morning carnival-goers in Belgium on Sunday, killing four people and injuring 20 people seriously, authorities said.
“A car driving at high speed ran into the crowd that had gathered to attend (the carnival),” La Louviere mayor Jacques Gobert told Belga news agency.
The incident took place at about 5:00 am (0400 GMT) at the carnival of Strepy-Bracquegnies, a district of the former industrial town of La Louviere, authorities said.
“This Sunday morning, a vehicle collided with… a group of around 100 people which had just left the sports hall to go back up to the centre of the village,” the mayor’s office said in a statement.
The public prosecutor’s office did not wish to communicate on the case for the time being, but will speak later in the day, it said.
Authorities are to hold a press conference at 11:00 am in La Louviere.
Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo deplored the “horrible news” in which “a community gathering to celebrate has been hit in the heart”, he wrote on Twitter.
De Croo was to visit the scene later on Sunday accompanied by Belgium’s King Philippe, the prime minister’s office said.
Belgian towns and villages host many street carnivals around the season of Lent, with the parades in Binche and Alost the most known, internationally.
Like Binche, the carnival of Strepy-Bracquegnies involves participants dressed up as “Gilles”, comical figures who are “called out” to the parade in the early hours.
“I was walking by,” one witness, Theo, told RTBF news.
“I turned around and saw a car running into the troop. It came very fast and didn’t brake. It continued and it took a girl 100 metres further,” he said.
In neighbouring Germany, a man in February 2020 rammed his car through a carnival procession, injuring dozens of bystanders including children.
Germany and other countries at the time had been on high alert for car ramming attacks since December 2016, when an Islamic State group sympathiser ploughed a truck through a Christmas market leaving 12 dead.
Germany has seen several such attacks since, with most carried out by people who were found to have psychological issues.