Police evacuate Times Square, investigate apparent car bomb

By Reuters
Sunday, May 2, 2010

NEW YORK -- Police evacuated Times Square on Saturday night after finding what they described as an apparent car bomb in a dark-colored sport-utility vehicle. A small "flash" was observed by firefighters on the scene.

"This appears to be a car bomb that the bomb squad is in the process of dismantling," police spokesman Paul Browne said. "We do not know the motive."

Browne said an NYPD mounted policeman spotted a box smoking in the back of the SUV and that the area was evacuated.

A New York Fire Department official told Reuters that the vehicle was found to contain explosives, gasoline, propane and burned wires. The official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media, said law enforcement officials were treating the vehicle as a "failed device."

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg (I) was returning to the city Saturday night after the White House Correspondents' Dinner, where he traditionally stays to host an exclusive after-party. "He's on the way back," a Bloomberg official told a Washington Post reporter shortly after 11 p.m., speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

Officers at the scene said the evacuation order stemmed from an "emergency investigation" and dozens of officers blocked access to the busy central Manhattan square, which is popular with tourists and theatergoers.

The SUV is parked near a production of "The Lion King" on 45th Street. Women in evening gowns were among the crowd on one of the warmest nights of the year and the busiest night of the week for Broadway theaters in the area.

Vehicle and pedestrian traffic was heavy on streets outside the evacuation zone, including Sixth and Eighth avenues. All intersections in the area were blocked by police and fire department vehicles.

A New York City firefighter who said he arrived early on the scene said the vehicle was parked at 45th Street and Seventh Avenue.

He confirmed that the vehicle was smoking and also said he saw "a flash" from the back of the SUV. The firefighter said a "mini-explosion" occurred between 6 and 6:30 p.m.

"The SUV was smoking. There was a flash and we put two and two together" and an evacuation was ordered, he said.

Other emergency personnel on the scene called the incident a "car fire."

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