Anti-terrorist police moved into the area and cordoned off part of the Old Brompton Road in north Fulham, while they investigated reports of a "fairly large" explosion.
Scotland Yard said that what was thought to be an explosive device had been placed in a bin outside number 326 Old Brompton Road. Police said they were treating the explosion as a terrorist incident. There were no reports of casualties, just blast damage to vehicles.
Houses opposite Brompton Cemetery sustained some damage and were evacuated. An area of two square was miles cordoned off and sniffer dogs brought in.
Mr Ali Khan, 42, a businessman, who lives in Old Brompton Road, opposite the cemetery, said: "I was in my bedroom when there was a large explosion. The room shook and I was very frightened."
Mr Khan ran outside to find that a litter bin at the gate to the cemetery had blown up and was immediately told by police to leave the area.
Police have been on alert since the IRA announced the end of its 17-month ceasefire shortly before the bombing of London's Docklands and an explosion when a bomb went off accidentally on a bus in the West End..
The would-be bomber Edward O'Brien was killed in the blast and a large cache of bomb-making equipment found at the young Irishman's home in Lewisham, south London, prompted police warnings that further IRA attacks on London were imminent.
Explosive devices planted in waste bins have been used in the past by the IRA although no one had claimed responsibility for last night's blast at press time. Johnathan Ball, three, and Tim Parry, 12 were killed by a similar device in a litter bin bomb attack in Warrington in March 1993.Reuse content