DOZENS of Eastleigh town centre shops are without power after a blaze at a power substation.
Witnesses described seeing a fireball then billowing smoke could be seen coming from the doors leading to the electrical hub between the Leo Leisure Bingo hall and Sainsbury's, on Leigh Road.
Staff and customers at the supermarket had to be evacuated as smoke started filling the store from the ceiling.
The incident at 10am attracted a crowd of concerned onlookers.
Two fire crews had taped off the area and have been on the scene, using ventilators to clear the smoke.
Crew Manager Justin Lee, said everyone was out when they arrived and did not believe anyone had been injured.
He said that workers from Scottish and Southern Energy were on site at the time and quickly left the building, reporting a fireball - he said as far as he knew it had been caused by a false circuit.
Parts of Market Street and Leigh Road remain without power in the town centre, including the UKIP by-election campaign headquarter.
More than than dozen stores have also been forced to close.
Simon Phillips, area manager for Leo Leisure, said the smell of smoke had reached the stairs, but the main hall remained unaffected but the main problem was a lack of power.
He said not opening today could cost the business in the region of £4,000.
Witnesses have told of their surprise at what happened.
Pete Charles, 52, of Eastleigh, said: “All we heard was a bang and the door blew open from the force of the blast, then a bloke came out afterwards, then I saw a big fireball.
“I thought someone might have got killed or injured.”
David Skinner, a baker in Sainbury's, said: “It sounded like somebody was drilling in the wall, the lights were flickering.
“The lights went out and smoke started coming in.”