The boss of a Southampton book shop has spoken of his horror as flames swept through the store.

Smoke billowed out of the shop yesterday as the city centre came to a standstill.

Waterstone’s on Above Bar Street went up in flames in the early afternoon as 30 firefighters spend more than an hour battling the fire.

Staff called the emergency services as they rushed out of the store, with customers also evacuated.

Neighbouring Barclays bank and Blacks were also shut off, with both damaged due to the amount of smoke that poured from the doors of the book shop.

Duty manager at the time, Rod Chamberlain, pictured below, said he was devastated and shocked.

Daily Echo:

Onlookers described a scene of panic and amazement as at 12.23pm, smoke started to pour out of the store.

Firefighters from St Mary’s, Redbridge, Hightown, Eastleigh and Fareham all attended the blaze, with firefighters trying to get it under control.

According to incident commander Phil Barrett, it took the crews just over an hour to do so.

Police cordoned off Above Bar Street for the entire afternoon with ambulance crews also treating those affected by the sheer volume of smoke.

Shop duty manager Mr Chamberlain said staff saw smoke first, and didn’t see any flames until after they had called 999.

Rod, 51, said: “First we heard the fire alarm and then came the smoke. There were three staff and one called 999.

"It was only as we were leaving that we saw the flames coming.

“I’m just so shocked and devastated, I have no clue what comes next.

"I have been working here for ten years.”

Daily Echo:

Commander Phil Barrett said: “What we had was a ground floor fire in Waterstones that started we believe at this stage towards the back of the building.

“The problem wasn’t so much the flames, but the amount of thick smoke that came from the fire itself. Our crews worked tirelessly to make sure it was under control quickly.”

As well as Waterstone’s, Blacks and Barclays were also shut off, with some saying they left nearby Marlands shopping centre due to the smoke.

Commander Barrett added: “It is certainly a high value commercial fire and I could easily imagine stock from Blacks will be smoke damaged too.”

The road reopened at 5pm but the shop remains shut.