Auto 'deliberately' ploughs into Christmas shoppers in Melbourne leaving 19 injured

Local media say over a dozen people have been injured after a car drove into pedestrians on a sidewalk in central Melbourne

An Australian man of Afghan descent with a history of mental health issues drove a vehicle into Christmas shoppers in the city of Melbourne on Thursday, injuring 19 people, but police said they did not believe the attack was terror-related.

While police had earlier said that 14 people had been injured, Victorian premier Daniel Andrews confirmed that 19 people had been taken to hospitals.

Police arrived on the scene within 15 seconds and the man was taken into custody by an off-duty police officer after attempting to resist arrest, Patton said.

Officers say the main suspect is a 32-year-old Australian national of Afghan descent who has a history of drug use & mental health issues.

Police said at a Thursday evening press conference security would be stepped up in the area, and that the investigation scene would be in place for a considerable amount of time.

Victoria Police say they believe the act was intentional but that there's no evidence it was terror related.

An Irish man has described the terrifying scenes from Melbourne as he and his family were just meters away when a auto plowed into a crowd of Christmas shoppers.

A second man, 24, was initially arrested but police have since said he has no links to the incident. He had a history of drug use and mental health issues, and had been undergoing treatment for mental illness, Patton said.

One witness said the 4WD was travelling at up to 100 km/h as it hit peak hour crowds crossing Flinders St, 11 months after six people were killed in a similar incident four blocks away in Bourke St.

He told Melbourne residents they should continue to enjoy the festive season and attend public events as normal.

Mr Andrews described the incident as "an act of evil and an act of cowardice, perpetrated against innocent bystanders".

"We are all caught up in this".

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At 5pm local time (6am GMT), a white Suzuki SUV charged through a crowd of pedestrians in Melbourne's city centre.

Four of the injured were in critical condition, including a pre-school aged boy who suffered a head injury.

A man who witnessed the auto that hit pedestrians in Melbourne talks about what he saw.

Another witness, Frank, posted "I've counted 5 cop cars and an ambo coming up the tram tracks towards Flinders along Elizabeth Street".

"Within a minute, the state police were running on foot towards the injured".

One witness, James Unkles, told local radio station 3AW the vehicle had "just mowed everybody down, people were flying everywhere".

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) released a statement confirming that all its players are safe and accounted for after a auto mowed down pedestrians on Flinders Street in Melbourne on Thursday.

In January, six people were killed and more than 30 were injured when a vehicle was driven up a footpath in Bourke Street, near Thursday's incident.

Heavy concrete bollards have since been placed at key spots around the city, including at Flinders St Station, to prevent vehicles ploughing into pedestrians on footpaths.

Witnesses described a horrific scene.

Police officers will remain at the scene for the foreseeable future - at least until 7am tomorrow.

"All you could hear was the sound of the vehicle hitting people and screams".

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