Police have arrested a man following a siege in central London after it was reported that he entered a building with gas canisters strapped to him.

The scare sparked a major alert, with Tube stations closed, businesses evacuated and one of the capital's busiest shopping streets shut.

The suspect, aged 49, was removed from Shropshire House in Tottenham Court Road by police officers who then began searching the building.

The Metropolitan Police said: "We have arrested a man at Tottenham Court Road. A search of the building is under way. We are not aware of any hostages at this stage. Search of the building continues on Tottenham Court Road."

The central London street was closed after police received emergency calls at midday. Scotland Yard sent a hostage negotiator to the scene amid reports that the man was holding people captive inside the building several floors up. Pictures emerged of computer and office equipment being thrown through one of the office windows.

Abby Baafi, 27, the head of training and operations at Advantage, a company which offers HGV courses, said the man targeted her offices and held four men hostage. Ms Baafi said the man failed the HGV training course and wanted his money back.

In a YouTube video by Stephen Hull, executive editor of Huffington Post UK, Ms Baafi said the man, calling himself Michael Green, entered her office.

"I recognised him because he was one of our previous customers but he is not quite stable - mentally stable," she said. "He turned up, strapped up with gasoline cylinders, and threatened to blow up the office. He said he doesn't care about his life. He doesn't care about anything, he is going to blow up everybody. He was specifically looking for me but I said 'My name's not Abby' and he let me go."

Later, Commander Mak Chishty, of the Metropolitan Police, said the suspect was a local man. He confirmed that no hostages were inside the building when the man left after negotiators were sent to the scene.

The officer said police were concerned that the suspect had explosives or flammable materials and the search of the scene would continue until officers were sure it was safe to reopen it. The suspect remains in police custody.