Police combed out the Vives University of Applied Sciences in Kortrijk on Thursday morning. The operation was launched after reports of an armed individual on the loose near the campus.
A person known to the police reportedly stepped off a bus and started acting suspiciously around 8AM. Police received reports of an individual carrying an item that “looked like a weapon”. The individual is said to have shown off the gun, but made no threats. After he alighted at the campus bus stop police decided to evacuate the university.
Over 4,000 West Flemish students were escorted to safety when the alarm was sounded. A special federal police unit also attended the scene. With a helicopter and drones in the air the entire campus was cordoned off and all buildings closed.
“We were in our lesson when we suddenly heard that somebody with malicious intentions was running about the place. We locked the classroom door and the lesson continued until we were evacuated” says student Karel Morlion.
Vives Kortrijk went into lockdown. Lecturers suspended their lessons and students, who hadn’t yet entered buildings, were turned away.
Later in the day the police action shifted to the neighbouring town of Waregem, where schools were ordered to go into lockdown too as police suspected the person they were looking for had left Kortrijk and had headed to Waregem.
The suspect is believed to be a Waregem resident and was sighted in the town this afternoon. “We can leave nothing to chance,” said the local mayor. “We put the schools in lockdown. There’s no reason for panic. This is a precaution. We hope we soon find the suspect.”