Frantic tourists and locals scrambled for cover in New York as the loud noise of a motorcycle backfiring sparked panic in the landmark Times Square.

New York Police Department said it received multiple 911 calls but reassured the public, adding that motorcycles backfiring had sounded like gunshots.

But after 31 people were killed in two mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, in less than 24 hours over the weekend, the sudden loud noise had people screaming as they fled on Tuesday evening in the midtown Manhattan neighbourhood, a major tourist destination and entertainment centre.

Video footage showed throngs rushing out of the area, with some taking cover behind vehicles.

Gideon Glick, an actor in To Kill a Mockingbird at the Shubert Theatre, said the show had to be stopped because of the chaos.

He wrote on Twitter: “Screaming civilians tried to storm our theatre for safety. The audience started screaming and the cast fled the stage. This is the world we live in. This cannot be our world.”

The Fire Department of New York said nine people were hurt, with six taken to hospital. Most injuries were minor.


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