Four people were killed and 38 others were wounded on Sunday when an explosion rocked a busy pedestrian street in central Istanbul, sending people running from the fiery blast, according to the local governor and witnesses.
Ambulances rushed to the scene on the packed Istiklal Avenue, which police quickly cordoned off. The area, in the Beyoglu district of Turkiye's largest city, had been crowded as usual at the weekend with shoppers, tourists and families.
State broadcaster TRT and state-owned Anadolu Agency said the cause of the blast was not yet known.
Bugün saat 16.20 sıralarında Beyoğlu ilçemiz, Taksim İstiklal Caddesi’nde bir patlama meydana gelmiştir.
Olay yerine emniyet, sağlık, itfaiye ve AFAD ekiplerimiz sevk edilmiştir.
Can kaybı ve yaralılarımız bulunmaktadır.
Gelişmeler kamuoyuyla paylaşılacaktır.
— Ali Yerlikaya (@AliYerlikaya) November 13, 2022
"Four people were killed and 38 others were wounded according to initial reports," Istanbul Governor Ali Yerlikaya said on Twitter, adding that the explosion occurred around 4.20 pm local time (1320 GMT).
A Reuters reporter saw a helicopter overhead and several ambulances in nearby Taksim Square.
#BREAKING: Moment of explosion in Taksim Sqaure, Istanbul. Possible bomb attack, bodies seen lying on the ground by eyewitnesses pic.twitter.com/ahrDcCvwXM
— ELINT News (@ELINTNews) November 13, 2022
#UPDATE A strong explosion was heard Sunday in a busy area in the heart of Istanbul, Turkish media reported, saying that people had been injured. The explosion occurred shortly after 4:00 pm (1300 GMT), reported the television channel NTV which said there were "injured" people.
— AFP News Agency (@AFP) November 13, 2022
"When I heard the explosion, I was petrified, people froze, looking at each other. Then people started running away. What else can you do," said Mehmet Akus, 45, a worker in a restaurant on Istiklal.
"My relatives called me, they know I work on Istiklal. I reassured them," he said.
The nearby Kasimpasa police station told Reuters all crews were at the scene but gave no further details.
Local media said crime inspectors were on the scene and Anadolu reported that the Istanbul chief public prosecutor's office had launched an investigation into the blast.
While the cause of the blast was unknown, Istanbul and other Turkish cities have been targeted in the past by Kurdish separatists, Islamist militants and other groups.
The Turkish Red Crescent said blood was being transferred to nearby hospitals.
Turkiye's RTUK regulator imposed a broadcast ban on coverage of the blast around an hour after it occurred.
"My condolences to those who lost their lives in the explosion on Istiklal Avenue," Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu said on Twitter.
Images shared on social media at the time of the explosion indicated it could be heard from far away and that there were also flames.
A wide black crater is also visible in the images as well as several bodies on the ground nearby.
Istiklal avenue was affected during a series of attacks targeting Istanbul in 2015-2016 claimed by the Dai'sh.
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif expressed condolence at the loss of precious lives on the behalf of people and government of Pakistan.
I have learnt with deep anguish about the explosion at popular Istiklal avenue in the heart of Istanbul. Govt & people of Pakistan express deepest condolences to the brotherly people of Turkiye at the loss of precious lives & send prayers for the speedy recovery of the injured.
— Shehbaz Sharif (@CMShehbaz) November 13, 2022
"I have learnt with deep anguish about the explosion at popular Istiklal avenue in the heart of Istanbul," he wrote on his official Twitter handle.
"Govt & people of Pakistan express deepest condolences to the brotherly people of Turkiye at the loss of precious lives & send prayers for the speedy recovery of the injured," he further said.
This will be updated…