'No trace of suspects, evidence of shots fired or casualties at Oxford Circus' - police
The operation was stood down just after 6pm local time. “If you sought shelter in a building please now leave and follow the direction of police officers on the ground if you need assistance,” the Metropolitan Police said.
“At 16:38hrs on Friday, 24 November police started to receive numerous 999 calls within a short space of time reporting shots fired in a number of locations on Oxford Street and at Oxford Circus underground station. Given the nature of the information received, the Met responded in line with our existing operation as if the incident was terrorism, including the deployment of armed officers,” it said in a statement.
“Officers working with colleagues from British Transport Police carried out an urgent search of the area. No causalities, evidence of any shots fired or any suspects were located by police. Some cordons remain in place and additional officers remain on duty in the West End to reassure the public. We thank the public for their patience and assistance during our response,” it added.
British Transport Police (BTP) tweeted there has been a report of one injury. “At this stage, we have received one report of a woman sustaining a minor injury when leaving Oxford Circus station. There are no other reported casualties.”
Lee Mann, 27, was locked in a basement with around 30 people after shopkeepers rushed people into their stores. She told RT: “I was standing outside Liberty with my headphones in, hundreds of people started running towards me. We don’t know what is happening. We are locked in the basement so we haven’t heard anything at all.”
Ryan Butcher, a reporter for the Independent who was inside the station at the time, said panic broke out after passengers were told to evacuate the station. A tannoy announcement said there had been a “reported emergency” and police arrived quickly, he said.
“Everyone started running ... I saw smoke … people started falling over in the streets.”
He is sheltering in a nearby restaurant, where he said other people were “shaking and crying,” adding: “Its just terrifying.”
According to Twitter user Assed Baig, there was “Panic at Oxford Circus as people shout bomb!” while BBC journalist Kawoon Khamoosh said “too much police in Oxford Circus. People are screaming and running trying to escape the area. Everything was normal, changed in a min.”
Too much police in Oxford Circus Street. People are screaming and running trying to escape the area. Everything was normal, changed in a min— Kawoon Khamoosh (@KawoonKhamoosh) November 24, 2017
Another Twitter user Chi Chi Izundu said she was locked in clothing store Zara until “the situation is under control.” She added that people “panicked and ran for cover into the changing rooms.”
BTP did not immediately confirm the cause of the alert. It tweeted: “We continue to respond to an incident at Oxford Circus. The station is currently closed, please avoid the area at this time. Officers are on scene.”
Bond Street tube station was also closed. BTP said its officers were called at 4.37pm local time on Friday. A spokesperson added they were responding in conjunction with officers from the Metropolitan Police.
The evacuation came as thousands of shoppers flocked to central London to shop the Black Friday sales.
A number of offices in the area were put on lockdown.