LONDON ― Commuters and tourists were sent into a panic on Friday as hordes of armed police spilled into the area surrounding one of the British capital’s busiest tube stations, responding to reports of shots fired.
Authorities at the Oxford Circus station said they were acting “as if the incident is terrorist related” and urged people in the area to stay indoors, but after finding “no evidence” on gunshots or casualties, stood down. The station was closed briefly, but has since reopened.
Bystanders shared videos on social media showing people running on the street as authorities instructed anyone outdoors to find shelter.
HuffPost UK reporter Owen Bennett was in the area at the time.
“After a few minutes where it seemed like nothing was happening there were screams and everyone started running and people then ran into buildings,” he said.
London resident Melina Michael-Ings, 40, was shopping for a pint of milk when the chaos unfolded.
“I saw people running,” she told HuffPost UK. “My first thought was ‘this is a bit extreme for Black Friday.’ Then suddenly a swarm of people came up the escalators. A swarm. It was horrifying. The screams ― they were running for lives and it felt like they were running from something.”
Terrorist-related arrests have risen to a record level in the U.K. The country’s official terror threat level was briefly raised to “critical” in September after a bombing at Parsons Green tube station in London wounded dozens of people.