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Sydney/Melbourne - Several people were stabbed in the Australian city of Melbourne on Friday and a man was arrested after an incident in the centre of the city crowded with pedestrians and shoppers.

About 4.31pm, police send out a media alert asking the public to avoid the Bourke Street area.

Police said officers "initially responded to a report of a auto on fire" in the city centre at 4:20 pm local time, but discovered at the scene that members of the public had been stabbed.

Police responded to the scene on Bourke Street after receiving reports of a vehicle on fire, Victoria Police Superintendent David Clayton told reporters shortly after the incident. The area has been cordoned off and the public are urged to avoid the area, ' they said earlier.

"And then not too long after that, I heard a loud bang that sounded a bit like a gunshot, nothing like an explosion, and then a person near me said they could see someone giving someone chest expressions and an ambulance and 50 cop cars came out of nowhere not long after that".

The two survivors were taken to hospital - one in a suspected critical condition.

Chilling footage uploaded to social media shows the suspect repeatedly swinging the weapon at two officers before one of them draws their firearm and opens fire. Police initially responded to a report of a auto on fire near the corner of Swanston Street about 4.20pm.

The message over the loudspeakers says: "This is Victoria Police, please evacuate the area".

The exact circumstances are yet to be determined at this stage.

"Anyone with information or who witnessed the incident is asked to go to Melbourne West Police Station to make a statement", a police statement said.

It's understood a third person has also been taken to hospital. Condition not yet known.

Video taken by witnesses shows a vehicle on fire in the area and bystanders using a shopping trolley and chair to confront the attacker.

"Police are now at an incident on Bourke St in the CBD". Police response was swift and overwhelming.

Police are seen responding to an incident at the intersection of Bourke Street and Swanston Street in Melbourne, Friday, November 9, 2018.

"I really wanted to help but I was in shock, I didn't know what to do".


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