A BOMB scare struck fear into Cardiff's packed city centre as thousands enjoyed a sunny shopping afternoon.
For four hours, as Army bomb disposal officers investigated a suspect package found in the Next clothes store, thousands of evacuated shop assistants and shoppers were kept behind cordons around Queen Street.
One young shop assistant was heard on her phone: "Just tell dad I'm OK.
"There's been a bomb scare in town and we've been evacuated, just let him know I'm fine."
The discovery of the suspect package yesterday followed a bomb-threat telephone call on Saturday which prevented the Next store from opening for several hours.
Police investigated then but found nothing until staff spotted the package, deliberately wrapped to look like a potential bomb, at around 11.45am yesterday.
Although it turned out to be a hoax, officers are investigating and a source said they had no idea for the reason behind the prank.
Coffee shop worker Martin Forncyzk, 26, of Adamsdown, Cardiff, said the alarm bells had sounded in the Capitol Centre just before noon yesterday and everyone was asked to leave.
"There was an announcement on the Tannoy asking people to make their way out," he said.
"There were lots of people around but they all walked out quite quietly."
Fellow shop workers at Dune, Virgin and other stores were camped out in the sunshine by Sainsbury's until Queen Street was re-opened at around 3.30pm.
Crowds gathered around the cordons which went as far up as the Lloyds TSB bank at the other end of the normally busy pedestrianised shopping street.
Other blockades were mounted on Park Place, Windsor Drive, Charles Street, and by the Virgin Megastore where the Royal Logistics Corps Bomb Disposal Officers, six police cars and vans, a fire engine and an ambulance were based.
Employees from Next were gathered together on Charles Street where yellow jacketed supervisors took precautionary lists of all the possessions they had left inside the store.
One said: "Oh my God, I've left my iPod in there and my wallet. It's got everything in."
All the Next employees had been told not to speak to the press and refused to comment.
Mary Wise, 73, from Pontypridd was shopping in Debenhams when she was asked to leave the store.
"A supervisor approached us and told us there had been a bomb warning and asked us to leave," she said.
"It was very polite and not rushed. They did it very well and gently, I thought."
A spokesman for South Wales Police would not comment in detail on the incident but confirmed that an area of Cardiff had been cordoned off for much of the afternoon.