By Daily Mail Reporter
A bomb squad officer examines the Nissan Pathfinder car. Smoke emerging from the vehicle first alerted officers to the 'car bomb'
Police evacuated New York's famous Times Square early this morning after a dark-colored sports utility vehicle was seen smoking and a small 'flash' was observed by firefighters on the scene.
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 theater-goers. It's three miles north of the World Trade Centre site, where the atrocities of September 11, 2001, were carried out.
New York Police Department spokesman Paul Browne said a vehicle had been left in Times Square, with smoke seen coming from it. It was discovered to contain explosives and a timing device.
Police evacuated a number of streets surrounding Times Square after the car bomb was noticed at about midnight GMT, 6.30pm local time
'It appears to be a car bomb left in a Pathfinder between Seventh and Eighth (avenues),' he said at 6am GMT, adding that the device contained 'explosive elements' that included 'propane tanks, some kind of powder, gasoline and a timing device'.
Both US President Barack Obama and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg praised police for their quick response.
'We are very lucky,' Mr Bloomberg told reporters. 'Thanks to alert New Yorkers and professional police officers, we avoided what could have been a very deadly event.'
A bomb disposal vehicle arrives at the scene after an explosive device was found in an SUV parked in Times Square
Bomb squad members worked through the night to diffuse the explosive device found in the car
He said the bomb 'looked amateurish' but could have exploded, adding that the incident was a 'reminder of the dangers that we face'.
Kevin Barry, a former supervisor in the New York Police Department bomb squad, told the New York Times he was told it was an improvised explosive device. But somehow, he said, the ignition source 'failed to function the main charge'.
A policeman stands guard on one of the deserted streets after the alarm was raised
The vehicle's registration plates belonged to a different vehicle, police said.
A New York City firefighter who said he arrived early on the scene described the vehicle as a dark-colored SUV, and said it was parked at the corner of 45th Street and Seventh Avenue.
He confirmed 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 6pm and 6.30pm.
Normally teeming with people on a Saturday night, the area around Times Square is empty save for police officers and members of the bomb squad
were set up and theatre-goers turned away as emergency services dealt with the car bomb
'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'.
The firefighter said the bomb squad remained at the scene as of 9pm, including a firefighter in a bomb suit. A robot was being used to investigate the suspicious SUV.
Reuters reporters on the scene said they heard an explosion from the area of the SUV around 9.15pm.
Two fire trucks were also at the scene, prepared to douse the vehicle with water if needed, the firefighter said.
Police said they planned to 'close down' Broadway shows in the vicinity, but it was not clear whether any theaters had actually been evacuated.
The square itself was mostly evacuated by 8pm according to Reuters reporters on the scene. Police had evacuated an area stretching from about 42nd Street up to 47th Street and including Seventh Avenue and Broadway.
But people dining inside the Blue Fin restaurant in a hotel at 47th and Broadway were allowed to continue and some people were being allowed in Broadway theaters in the area.
Police officers earlier told Reuters the area was shut down due to 'an emergency investigation'.