NEW YORK, May 1, 2010 -- Police evacuated New York's Times Square Saturday night after a dark-colored sports utility vehicle was found to be 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..
New York Police Department spokesman Paul Browne said a vehicle had been left in Times Square, with smoke seen coming from it.
There was an unconfirmed report that someone was seen running from the car, Browne said. A bomb squad responded and a small fire was extinguished, he said.
"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."
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 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.
Other emergency personnel on the scene called the incident a "car fire."
The firefighter said the bomb squad remained at the scene as of 9 p.m., 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 9:15 p.m.
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 8 p.m., 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."