'National catastrophe' in Belgium as six people killed after car drives into carnival crowd

People walk home after the incident on Sunday morning. Credit: AP

Six people have been killed, and a 10 others left with life-threatening injuries, after a car ran into a carnival in Belgium on Sunday morning.

The vehicle drove at high speeds into a crowd gathered in the southern town of Strépy-Bracquegnies to mark the festival - the first held in two years due to Covid.

Two locals in their thirties have been arrested. The prosecutor's office has stressed the early stages of the investigation suggest there are no elements to suspect a terror motive.

"What should have been a great party turned into a tragedy," said Belgian Interior Minister Annelies Verlinden.

Instead, said mayor Jacques Gobert, "what happened turned it into a national catastrophe."

More than 150 people of all ages had gathered around 5am and were standing in a thick crowd along a long, straight road.

Suddenly, "a car drove from the back at high speed. And we have a few dozen injured and unfortunately several people who are killed," Mr Gobert said.

The annual event has been cancelled two years in a row due to Covid. Credit: AP

The driver and a second person were arrested when their car came to a halt a few hundred meters further on.

Since Belgium was hit with twin terror attacks in Brussels and Zaventem that killed 32 civilians six years ago, thoughts of a terror motive are never far away.

But prosecutor Damien Verheyen said "there is no element in the investigation at this time that allows me to consider that the motivations of the two could have been terror related."

The prosecutor's office also denied media reports that the crash may have been caused by a car that was being chased by police.

Carnival is extremely popular in the area and the nearby version in Binche has even been declared UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage.