NEWPORT came to a standstill yesterday when bomb scares at Friars Walk and George Street Bridge closed roads for hours, stranding members of the public.

The incident began at around 3pm after Gwent Police received reports of a 'suspicious vehicle' in Friars Walk in Newport.

Specialist 'bomb squad' officers attended the scene and - despite reports of loud bangs - it was confirmed that no controlled explosions were carried out but rather that the car windows were smashed by officers "as part of the investigation".

At around 5pm Gwent police confirmed that a second 'suspicious item' had been reported at George Street Bridge.

A Gwent Police spokeswoman said: "Specialist officers attended both locations to investigate if there was any immediate threat to the public.

“As a precautionary measure cordons and traffic diversions were put in place to ensure the safety of those nearby.”

The A4042, Usk Way in Newport was immediately cordoned off and local businesses and the Kingsway shopping centre were evacuated.

Students at the University of South Wales Usk Way campus said the building was put on lockdown by police and they were told to stay away from the windows.

Student Nel O'Neill from Newport, who is in her final year of a primary teaching degree said: "We were in the university and we were put in lockdown. I noticed the police cordon and saw police cars and police told us to stay inside and get away from windows.

"The security were running round the building shouting that there was a total evacuation and we had to get out. I managed to contact friends and family to say we are safe and warned people to avoid the area.”

Gemma Savage who works at the USW campus added: “We could see the Newport Centre being evacuated and then we were told to evacuate the building and move to a car park.”

Manzoor Hussain who lives close to the scene said he was concerned about the incident: “It is worrying considering what is going on, and when you see the police blocking off the roads it does worry you, but the police are taking action to keep things under control."

People were unable to access their cars parked in and around the Kingsway Centre and Friars Walk.

Parents were concerned about picking up children and many faced the prospect of walking for miles because of the closure of the city’s main bridges.

Brenda Thomas from Chepstow said her car was stuck in the Kingsway Centre after she had parked there for a hospital appointment.

She said: “I had an appointment at the hospital and I walked back and the police told me that the area was being evacuated.

"We have a disabled son who is at a centre today and we have had to arrange for him to go to respite and wait for us to arrive.”

Officers on the scene praised the way that people handled the situation and said that people had been offering them sunscreen and water which they appreciated in the hot weather conditions.

Officers from across the region were involved in the response to the incident, including officers from Brynmawr who said they would be returning to their station when the roads had been opened.

Following the incident extra ad-hoc free bus services were put on by Newport Bus in collaboration with Newport City Council to get those who had been affected home.

Gwent Police confirmed that incidents are not believed to be terror related.

A spokeswoman said: “We can confirm both incidents are now under control and are not believed to be terror related at this time. We responded on a multi-agency basis according to well-rehearsed plans for scenarios of this nature.

“We would like to thank the public for their patience and support whilst our officers and our partners carried out their work. In light of recent events we continue to ask our communities to remain vigilant and report any suspicious activity on 0800 789 321 or by dialling 999.”