An investigation into a suspicious vehicle in Times Square has revealed an apparent car bomb, police sources said.
Sources told Eyewitness News that the vehicle contained gasoline, propane and possibly gun powder. Incindiary devices are not explosive devices, but are lethal.
According to ABC News, inside the Nissan Pathfinder police found: Three propane cylinders, two five gallon jerry cans of gasoline, a canister of powder, electrical components and an alarm clock.
Police at the scene said, “It’s the real deal.”
Bomb techs from the FBI New York office were on scene with the NYPD Bomb Squad to aid in the investigation.
Thousands of tourists and theatergoers were cleared from the area because of the scare.
It started with a report of a vehicle fire around 6:35 Saturday night.
The vehicle was parked on 45th Street west of Broadway.
Witnesses said they heard an explosion, then saw smoke coming from the car.
“It was a boom and a puff of smoke,” one man said.
“I saw people running, turning tables,” Paula Delarrosa said.
A New York City firefighter told ABC News 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 p.m. 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.
New York Police Department spokesman Paul Browne said that there was an unconfirmed report that someone was seen running from the car.
“We’re just trying to determine if it was anything other than a car fire,” said Browne. “We don’t know yet if it’s anything more than that.”
Police said the license plates on the vehicle didn’t match to the make of the SUV, which raised suspicions.
The NYPD quickly blocked off 44th through 48th Street and sent in the robot from the bomb squad to check for explosives.
Police evacuated several residential and commercial buildings and cleared the streets of people. Police were deployed around the area with heavy weapons on empty streets in the heart of midtown Manhattan that normally teem with thousands of theatergoers and tourists.
Theaters on 45th Street were evacuated. Other theaters delayed opening.
The NYPD Bomb Squad robot blew out the vehicles windows in order to investigate. The noise could be heard for a couple of blocks from the scene.
The White House says President Barack Obama has been briefed on the apparent car bomb.
In a statement, the administration said that the president, who attended an annual dinner for White House news correspondents Saturday night, praised the quick response by the New York Police Department.
Obama has also directed his homeland security and counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan, to advise New York officials that the federal government is prepared to provide support.
There have been several other incidents in Times Square over the past couple of years.
In March 2008, a hooded bicyclist hurled an explosive device at a military recruiting center in the heart of Times Square, producing a flash, smoke and full-scale emergency response. No suspect was ever identified.
In December, police evacuated thousands of holiday tourists from Times Square after finding a white van that had been parked there for days without license plates and blacked-out windows. No bombs were found, and police later said they overlooked the van because it contained a parking placard for a nonprofit police group.