Police shoot man who held 37 people hostage on a bus in Rio De Janeiro

An armed man holding dozens of people hostage on a bus has been shot dead after a four-hour standoff with police, according to officials.

The hijacker, who was thought to have been armed with a gun and a knife, was threatening to set the vehicle on fire in a terrifying ordeal for the 37 passengers on board.

Police were alerted shortly after 5.30am to a bus which came to a standstill on a bridge in downtown Rio De Janeiro.

Brazilian police surrounded the bus, which came to a standstill and caused huge delays.

The man who has not yet been identified, released six hostages in the first hour, who told police the man had poured petrol in the bus and threatened to set it on fire.

Rio’s elite police force known as BOPE was in charge of the negotiations. A sniper was placed nearby.

A spokesperson for the traffic police earlier told Brazil's TV Globo that the man appeared to have "psychological problems" (AP Foto/Leo Correa)

Traffic was blocked in both directions on the bridge, with hundreds of vehicles waiting in line at a time when people would be making their way to work.

A spokesman for the military police, Col Mauro Fliess, told a local TV programme that the sniper opened fire when the hijacker appeared at the door of the bus pointing what looked like a weapon at the head of one of the hostages.

Brazilian media said it was not clear if he had made any demands.

Col Fliess told TV programme Bom Dia Rio that the weapon the man was carrying turned out to be a toy gun.

He praised the police force for their bravery.

"This is the police force we want to see. The sniper shot was necessary to neutralise the outlaw and to save the people on the bus," the colonel said.

None of the hostages were thought to be injured, apart from a woman who fainted while leaving the bus.

Hostage situation: People wait at a blocked access of the bridge connecting the city of Niteroi to Rio de Janeiro (AP)
Standstill: A Police officer walks with his weapon as he indicates the way back to the drivers at the blocked bridge connecting the city with Rio

Officials said the man had identified himself to the bus as a policeman but this has not been confirmed.

Hans Moreno, one of the hostages onboard, said on TV Globo the man was “very calm” and was not acting in an aggressive way.

The man had not made any particular demands and appeared to have “psychological problems,” a spokesperson for the traffic police said on TV Globo.

Military police had earlier tweeted that the special operations team was negotiating with the hostage taker: "Our officers are trained and have great practical experience in these types of situations."

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