An armed man in Sydney, Australia, has taken several hostages in the Lindt Cafe in Martin Place, right in the city's Central Business District.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the hostages have been inside the café since 9:45am local time on Monday. The Sydney Opera House was evacuated an hour later, and several hostages have already escaped.
The New York Times noted that in addition to the Opera House, other strategic buildings — including the the New South Wales Parliament, the state library, law courts and the Reserve Bank — were evacuated or shut down. The United States Consulate General in Sydney, about a block from the cafe, was evacuated. A spokeswoman for the United States Embassy in Canberra, Australia's capital city, said that American officials did not yet know the nationality of the people being held. Traffic on part of Sydney’s iconic Harbor Bridge was stopped.
During the night, Deputy Commissioner Catherine Burn has commended the public for its patience during the ongoing operation. "You, the community, made our job much easier than it could have been," Deputy Commissioner Burn said.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott, in a televised appearance from Canberra, referred to the suspect as “an armed person claiming political motivation.”
The Herald reports that bus services will run according to regular schedules, although some routes will be diverted around the affected area. Train services will operate normally although Martin Place station remains closed. People intending to travel to the Sydney CBD, away from the cordoned off area, are advised to go ahead with their plans.
Those affected by the operation are advised to monitor media reports and seek advice via the NSW Police website and social media platforms.
Stay tuned to www.travelagentcentral.com for updates.
Update: According to the Sydney Morning Herald, New South Wales police have announced that the siege is over and that the gunman is dead.
The Herald also noted that trains and buses into Sydney's CBD are operating as normal with the following changes:
All train lines and stations are operating as normal, other than trains on the T4 Eastern Suburbs Line, which are not stopping at Martin Place.
City-bound express bus services that operate via the Eastern Distributor will use the Eastern Distributor, William Street, College Street, St James Road and Elizabeth Street to Liverpool Street.
Route 200 bus services will operate to North Sydney via Park Street, Druitt Street, Clarence Street and the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
Route 200 bus services will operate to Bondi Junction via the Sydney Harbour Bridge, York Street, Druitt Street and Park Street.
CDC/Hillsbus route 620, 650 and 642 bus services that operate via the Cahill Expressway will use Grosvenor Street, George Street and Market Street.
Ferry and light rail services are operating as normal.
Train, bus, ferry and light rail customers can use their tickets across all forms of public transport.
Further Update: For those people heading into Sydney's CBD on Tuesday morning, there are several road diversions still in place. Visit the Sydney Morning Herald for further updates.
Police will continue to maintain a perimeter around the Lindt Chocolat Cafe, at the corner of Martin Place and Phillip Street.
Police have also cordoned off Hunter, King, Phillip and Elizabeth streets.
Bus services will run according to regular schedules, although some routes will be diverted around the affected area.