LONDON — Terrorism struck at the heart of London Saturday night when a vehicle veered off the road and mowed down pedestrians on London Bridge and then three men with large knives attacked people at bars and restaurants in nearby Borough Market.
The violence turned a summery Saturday night in an area full of bars and restaurants into a scene of panic and chaos, with officers running through crowded streets screaming for people to flee and lifeboats drafted to help clear the area.
Police in London said seven people died and close to 50 were injured in the rampage. Police also said they shot dead three suspects and that they believe all the attackers were killed.
Police said they were called just after 10 p.m. (2100GMT) to reports of a vehicle hitting pedestrians on the bridge, which crosses the River Thames in central London.
— Metropolitan Police (@metpoliceuk) June 3, 2017
Soon after, there were reported stabbings at nearby Borough Market, an area full of bars and restaurants.
The force said armed officers were sent to the scenes and shots were fired. They did not say if officers fired the shots.
The force initially said officers were also responding to a reported third incident, in the Vauxhall area of London. But they said later that turned out to be an unrelated stabbing.
The force tweeted a warning telling people in the area to run to safety, hide and then call police if it is safe to do so.
Prime Minister Theresa May said that “following updates from police and security officials, I can confirm that the terrible incident in London is being treated as a potential act of terrorism.”
She said it was a fast-moving investigation and her thoughts were with “those who are caught up in these dreadful events.”
May’s office said she would chair a meeting of the government’s COBRA emergency committee on Sunday.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan has condemned the incidents at London Bridge and on Borough Market, describing them as “a deliberate and cowardly attack on innocent Londoners.”
The mayor issued a statement early Sunday in which he urged the public to remain calm as the situation is still unfolding.
He says that his thoughts are with everyone affected.
“This was a deliberate and cowardly attack on innocent Londoners and visitors to our city enjoying their Saturday night,” Khan said. “I condemn it in the strongest possible terms. There is no justification whatsoever for such barbaric acts.”
About two hours after the first reports of an incident, television images showed people walking away from the London Bridge area with their hands on their heads. Police tweeted that Londoners should “remain calm but be alert and vigilant.”
— Kaine Pieri (@PieriKaine) June 3, 2017
Nick Brandon of British Transport Police said the force had received reports of “multiple” casualties in an incident possibly involving a knife and a vehicle. He said he did not know how serious the injuries were.
Multiple witnesses reported a vehicle veering off the road and hitting several pedestrians; others also said they saw a man with a knife.
Witnesses reported seeing injured people on the ground on the bridge. One, Holly Jones, told the BBC a white van veered off the road and struck as many as six people. She said she saw at least four or five people on the ground.
Another witness, Will Heaven, said he saw people who appeared to have been hit, and one being put into an ambulance.
“We saw injured people on the road, injured people on the pavement,” he told Sky News.
He added that “it did not look like an accident,” saying it was clear that police “thought they were responding to something far more serious than a road traffic accident.”
London bridge bar now. Police everywhere pic.twitter.com/0gWH9jhgdX
— James Yates (@Yatesy17) June 3, 2017
A man who gave only his first name, Ben, told BBC radio that he “saw a man in red with a large blade, at a guess 10 inches long, stabbing a man, about three times” near Borough Market.
Transport for London said busy London Bridge station and two others were closed at the request of police.
The incident happened on a warm Saturday night in a busy area full of bars and restaurants.
As in Manchester two weeks ago, after a suicide bomber killed 22 and injured dozens, Londoners were quick to offer assistance to those caught up in the attacks at London Bridge and Borough Market.
Phaldip Singh, who describes himself as an entrepreneur and youth activist, tweeted that Sikh Gurdwaras were open to provide food and shelter for those affected by the attacks. Gurdwaras are places of worship that traditionally serve simple meals to anyone, regardless of their religion.
The Royal Oak pub in Southwark opened its doors to people evacuated from hotels inside the area cordoned off by police. At least one minicab company tweeted an offer of free rides for people stranded in the area.