YOU could be forgiven for thinking it was part of a great Christmas giveaway.

A skip filled with hundreds of bottles of soft drinks, beers and ciders sits outside a Southampton convenience store, while baskets brimming with more stock lie untouched inside the shop.

But this is all part of a festive clearout of a very different kind.

Staff from the Co-op Welcome store at the Liberty Quays student accommodation complex in Terminus Terrace have been forced to throw away nine skips full of food, drink and cigarettes worth a total of £60,000 after they were ruined by a major sewage leak.

The store was left swimming in contaminated water after the caps blew off seven separate pipes in the ceiling, causing gallons of muck to gush into the building.

The freak incident, which is believed to have been caused by a build-up of rainwater, contaminated the shop’s entire stock, while also causing hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of damage to the floor, counters and electrical equipment.

Staff at the store have been working around the clock since the incident at 7.50am last Friday morning, alongside Rentokill hygiene specialists, to remove the stock and clean the premises.

The flood has forced bosses to shut up shop until the new year with a complete refit now planned.

Owner Richard Inglis described the incident as “devastating”.

He said: “This has been very costly to our business and it’s the last thing we needed just before Christmas.

“We have got a very dedicated base of regular customers in the local area and it’s saddening that we can’t serve those customers over the Christmas period.

“We are really sorry we are closed and want to assure those customers that we will be opening as soon as we can.

“But because of the sewage contamination of the water it’s not worth taking the risk. The health of our customers is our primary concern and we don’t want anyone to get ill from any products they buy from us.”

Landlords Liberty Living were unavailable for comment last night.