AN INVESTIGATION was continuing last night into a gas leak at a shopping centre.

Hundreds of shoppers and staff evacuated the Sainsbury's and Marks & Spencer stores in Hedge End after people felt ill.

The fire service has revealed that the carbon dioxide leak was sourced to a freezer in the Sainsbury’s store.

However, after being given the all clear by the emergency services, both stores were open as normal yesterday morning.

Sainsbury’s called engineers to the Tollbar Way site during the incident to assess the situation and liaise with the emergency services to establish the cause of the leak.

A Sainsbury’s spokesman said this was still under investigation.

However, he did say that all refrigerator units in the store had been checked.

“We’re checking absolutely everything as you can imagine,”

said the spokesman.

“We take anything like this extremely seriously.

“We’re still looking at what the problem might be.”

The alarm was raised just after 5pm on Tuesday.

Medics treated more than 60 people at the scene for sore throats, itchy eyes and tight chests, and one woman was taken to hospital.

Seven ambulances attended along with two Hazardous Area Response Teams (HART).

Southampton General Hospital was put on major incident standby to receive casualties but this was later stood down.

A South Central Ambulance Service spokeswoman said if people continued to feel unwell they should contact their GP.

The senior fire officer in charge, Mark Larrimore, said the leakage, he believed, was in the area near the cheese counter.

He said although carbon dioxide is not toxic, it cuts the amount of oxygen in the air.