London police confirmed that an incident occurred outside the popular Natural History Museum was not related to terrorism whatsoever. It was just a traffic accident that injured 11 people as a car mounted the pavement and hit pedestrians. Nine of them were taken to the hospital but no life-threatening injuries were reported.
Helicopters, a huge police response and even hazardous area response teams attended the scene as everyone though it was a terrorist attack. A large security cordon was placed around the area in a matter of minutes. The accident took place at 14:20 BST in Exhibition Road, South Kensington.
As soon as they heard the loud bangs produced by the car crash, people started screaming and running. Confusion took over the scene and police officers had a hard time at reassuring the public that it was not a terror-related incident.
London’s Metropolitan Police said one person had been arrested and witnesses reported that a man had been restrained on the ground, according to BBC News. The man, presumably the driver, is held in custody at a police station.
Witnesses told reporters that police rushed everyone to evacuate nearby shops and restaurants, where customers left their coats and their half-eaten meals. The Natural History Museum closed down early but London Mayor Sadiq Khan tweeted that the museums and attractions in the area would be open as normal on Sunday.
The alarming response to a simple car crash occurred because the United Kingdom has been under a severe terror threat, the second highest level which means that the likelihood of an attack is high, according to the Joint Terrorism Analysis Center. Terrorists have used vehicles to kill pedestrians on Westminster Bridge and London Bridge, among other attacks that have hit Britain this year.
Because the crash happened in an area packed with tourists, there were concerns that it would be the sixth terrorist attack of the year
The museums located in South Kensington attracted more than 10 million tourists last year.
Experts believe Saturday’s accident was a “warning sign”
The car crash shows how vulnerable London’s busiest tourist attractions are. Protective barriers might have to be installed in order to protect pedestrians. David Videcette, a former Scotland Yard counter-terror detective told The Independent that the vulnerability of Exhibition Road formed an environment preferred by terrorists.
A security review led to “hostile vehicle mitigation” barriers to be erected by the Metropolitan Police along Westminster Bridge, Lambeth Bridge, and Waterloo Bridge.
“Look at Nice, Berlin, London Bridge, Westminster – they were big long stretches of road with nothing in the way to stop vehicles getting into a place where thousands of people were standing around like sitting ducks,” Videcette noted, as quoted by The Independent.
Source: The Washington Post