Sunday, April 18News For London

Oxford Circus ‘attack’: false alarm and true panic

Hundreds of people ran to escape from Oxford Circus tube station, where was believed being attacked on Friday evening, only to find it was a false alarm.

 

Police is searching for suspects. Photo by Qiuyi Wu

Shortly after 4.30pm, armed police and officers from British Transport Police and the Metropolitan Police rushed to the Oxford Circus tube station, after received “numerous” 999 calls reporting gunshots on the platform of Oxford Circus Underground station. Hundreds of passengers and shoppers ran out of the tube station where they believed to be attacked on Friday evening, only to find it was a false alarm.

Police said there is ‘no evidence of shots fired or casualties’ after earlier reports of terrorist attack, other than a woman slightly injured when she fled from the tube station. The reaction showed the anxiety of public after the country have been targeted by five terrorist attacks by the end of this year.

The street was blocked. Photo by Qiuyi Wu

Wei Zhong, a PhD student, who was shopping said: “I don’t even know what had happened. I was shopping and everyone start running and crying. We rushed outside the shopping mall, and the police told us to stay back to the lower ground. After few minutes, we were evacuated to the Oxford street by shop sellers. However, people around me started to run again. Even helicopters had arrived. Other passengers and me were ensconced inside a storehouse beside House of Fraser, the gate keeper told us to take care of pregnant women and children. I felt warm.”

Another witness experienced totally different. “When my friends tried to take cover in a shop, they were refused by the shop seller as the reason of ‘no Chinese’. The seller pushed them out and let the others behind to get into the shop. I was totally shocked.” Pei Qiuxin, a Chinese student said. “As an international student, it’s really chilling.”

People were evacuated to the street. Photo by Qiuyi Wu

The department stores that dominate the street, such as John Lewis and Selfridges, shut their doors and gave shelter. The Oxford Circus station and nearby Bond Street has been closed for a while to prevent overcrowding. Around 18pm, the two stations were reopened as the armed police have been stood down.

“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,” the Met said.

The panic happened on Black Friday, on the Britain’s best known and busiest street, packed with Christmas shoppers, commuters and school children.

Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London praised the city’s emergency services for a “swift response” through a Twitter statement.

Terrorist attacks in London this year have left 18 dead and 137 injured and a further 22 people were killed by a suicide bomber in Manchester.

The UK terrorism threat level is set at “severe”, meaning an attack is assessed to be highly likely.