FIREFIGHTERS are tackling a major fire this afternoon.

A thick plume of black smoke is hanging over Cowes as up to 40 firefighters tackle the blaze.

Some residents and businesses have been evacuated while others are being warned to keep their windows shut after the fire broke out in Medina Village at about 12.30pm.

A 200m cordon is currently in place around the site, now understood to be a car workshop off Bridge Road.

Firefighters have now dampened most of the fire, but will continue to extinguish any remaining flames.

Dozens of boats and cars are understood to be at the site.

The Cowes Carnival group have said they have "lost everything", with two floats destroyed in the blaze and several businesses have been affected.

A spokesman for the Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue Service said fire crews remain at the site but the fire is almost suppressed.

He said: "Residents from Thetis Road have been evacuated from their properties due to the ongoing incident at the Industrial Park.

"Until advised otherwise by the Emergency Services, residents will be unable to return to their properties.

"Residents from Thetis Road are being directed to attend the Cowes Corinthian Yacht Club on Birmingham Road which has been set up by the Isle of Wight Council as a Temporary Place of Shelter until residents are able to return to their homes.

"An emergency helpline has been set up for residents of Thetis Road to call: 01983 823407.

"Further updates on the incident will be provided  to affected residents at the Temporary Place of Shelter as it becomes available."

The smoke could be seen across the Solent in Hampshire.

Four crews from Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service, from Wickham, Portchester, Emsworth and Waterlooville, travelled over from Portsmouth to help their colleagues from the island's fire service.

An evacuation centre has been set up at the Cowes Corinthian Yacht Club.

Service on the Cowes floating bridge was suspended while the car ferry between East Cowes and Southampton is suspended while the harbour is closed.

Service on the vehicle ferry has now resumed but Red Funnel says there may be delays.

A boom has been put across the River Medina to prevent contamination.

A spokesman for Hampshire Constabulary, which is helping with the incident, said: "Residents in East Cowes may be seeing a lot of black smoke being blown towards the area and we are therefore asking them to keep their windows shut as a precaution."

Eyewitness Alex Gardner, a naval architect at Sustainable Marine Energy in nearby Trinity Wharf, said: "Emergency services are still on site working to control the fire, although we can still see flames over the top of some of the smaller sheds.

"And there is the occasional loud bang we can hear from the other side of the river, by the sounds of things canisters of some kind going off. 

"We noticed the smoke first (from the office) and went to see where it was all coming from. From our angle it looked like some of the flames were a similar height to the old crane in the yard. 

"Although there's no more thick black smoke, we can now see some of the damage done by the fire, in the big shed the roof has caved in, and some of the walls have collapsed."