NEW YORK – Police found a suspected car bomb in a parked sport utility vehicle Saturday evening in New York City’s Times Square, then evacuated buildings and cleared streets of thousands of tourists in the landmark known as the “Crossroads of the World.”
A mounted police officer noticed smoke coming from the SUV at 6:30 p.m., police said. Bomb investigators found propane tanks, powder and an apparent timing device inside, according to a law enforcement official who wasn’t authorized to release the information and spoke on condition of anonymity.
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.
Some tourists reported hearing a small explosion hours after the car was first located.
Shelly Carlisle, of Portland, Ore., said police crowded into her Broadway theater after the curtain closed on “Next to Normal,” a show on the same block where the SUV was found.
“At the end of the show, the police came in. We were told we had to leave,” Carlisle said. “They said there was a bomb scare.”
The car was parked on 45th Street, and the block was closed between Seventh and Eighth avenues as a precaution, police said. Times Square lies about four traffic-choked miles north of the site where terrorists bombed the World Trade Center in 1993, then laid waste to it on Sept. 11, 2001.
FBI agents were on the scene with the New York Police Department.
The block that was closed is one of the prime blocks for Broadway shows, with seven theaters housing such big shows as “Billy Elliot” and “Lend Me a Tenor.”
The curtain at “God of Carnage” and “Red” opened a half hour later than usual, but the shows were not canceled, said spokesman Adrian Bryan-Brown.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg left early from the White House correspondents dinner Saturday night. A news conference was planned in New York for early today.