LONDON, March 22 (Xinhua) -- On Wednesday afternoon, the area outside the British House of Parliament was cordoned off with a heavy police presence. Copters were seen hovering overhead and ambulances passing by at a gallop. Most of the roads near Westminster were closed by the police.
Under the guidance of the police, around 500 politicians, staff and visitors moved to a safe area as the building was placed in a security lockdown. Some people were staying at the scene, waiting to follow the latest situation.
Among them, Harry Fletcher, an art lecturer, just finished calling his family and still felt agitated. "I think it could be terrorist linked. I can't imagine there is anything else," he said.
A few minutes ago, a bloody attack took place outside the Parliament House, leaving five people dead and 40 others injured. The British Parliament has been shut down after the attack. British Prime Minister Theresa May condemned the attack as "sick and depraved."
"The location of this attack was no accident," she said in a statement, adding that "the terrorists chose to strike at the heart of our Capital City."
Wednesday was the Prime Minister's question time at the parliament. May was present at the House of Commons.
May said any attempt to defeat the values that parliament stands for are "doomed to failure," and the "forces of evil" would never be allowed "to drive us apart."
As the incident continued, hundreds of people fled the scene on fears of a bomb attack on Westminster.
Business in the Houses of Parliament was immediately suspended. Specially trained officers were combing the parliament buildings for bombs or explosives.
The London Eye, one of the capital's biggest tourist attractions, was shut down, leaving many people spending several hours in the pods high above the River Thames.
Commander BJ Harrington of the Metropolitan Police (Met) said a major terrorist incident had been declared.
"Although we remain open minded to the motive, a full terrorism investigation is underway led by the Met's Counter Terrorism Command," said Harrington.
The attack came just days after the Met staged its biggest ever terrorism exercise on the River Thames, as part of preparations for any attacks on the Houses of Parliament.
The attack took place as Europe marked the first anniversary of two terrorist attacks in Belgium which left 32 dead (excluding three terrorists) and 320 others wounded.
London's terror attack alert level has been raised to severe since 2014, the second highest. A staffer with the Parliament told Xinhua that he had sensed that the attack would happen "sooner or later."
Author and broadcaster Abdel Bari Atwan said that he was inside the House of Commons, discussing anti-terrorism issues with others as the attack happened. He and nearly 1,000 evacuated from the parliament have been stranded in the Westminster Hall and later the Westminster Abbey for hours after the event.
Mark Rowley, the national leader for Counter Terrorism Policing, said that the attack started when a car was driven over Westminster Bridge, hitting and injuring a number of people and three police officers.
"The car then crashed near to Parliament and at least one man, armed with a knife, continued the attack, trying to enter Parliament," he said.
Keith Palmer, a 48-year-old police officer, died after being stabbed outside the House of Parliament. Several others are critically injured after a vehicle ploughed into a crowd on Westminster Bridge just outside the Parliament.
The terrorist who stabbed the police officer was shot by police officers who raced to aid their colleagues. The suspect was taken to hospital and died.
After the attack, May had an emergency meeting with senior ministers, senior police officers, representatives of the security agencies and London Mayor Sadiq Khan. Flags were lowered to half mast over Downing Street to honor victims of the attack.
U.S. President Donald Trump spoke with May after the attack, and speaking at the daily briefing, White House spokesman Sean Spicer said the United States condemned the attack and applauded the quick response of British police and first responders.
European Union chiefs also offered sympathy to Britain in the wake of the attack.
"My thoughts are with the victims of the Westminster attack. Europe stands firm with the UK against terror and ready to help," European Council President Donald Tusk tweeted.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said in a statement, "Today marks one year since the people of Brussels and Belgium suffered a similar pain and felt the support of your sympathy and solidarity. At this emotional time, we at the European Commission can only send that sympathy back twofold."
French President Francois Hollande expressed solidarity with British authorities and called for a European plan to set "all the conditions to respond to these attacks."
Among the injured, three are French students who were on a school trip in London when the attack happened, French foreign ministry confirmed.
London returned to peace as night fell. The tube and bus systems worked as normal with revelers flooded shopping areas. The Parliament would meet Thursday morning as normal despite the attack, according to May.