A manhunt has been launched by police after a woman reported being raped in a city centre park.

After receiving the report just after 5am yesterday that a woman in her 40s had been raped in East Park, officers descended and cordoned off a large chunk of the city centre space.

Hampshire police forensics teams were seen gathering evidence until the cordon was lifted at around 11.55am.

Police said the woman was being supported by specialist officers. No arrests have been made.

Speaking last night, Southampton Chief Inspector Chris Douglas said: “We fully appreciate how concerning incidents of this nature are to local residents.

"I want to assure you that specialist officers are working hard today in order to identify and locate the suspect, while the victim is being supported.

“Officers will remain in the area into this evening and tomorrow. As always, we ask that you come and speak to them if you have any concerns, questions or information.”

READ MORE: Gosport man found guilty of raping two women

The incident has sparked shock and concern in the community - from residents who live nearby to councillors.

A 23-year-old Southampton woman, who lives under a mile away from East Park said: "It's horrible that has happened to someone - I wish her the best in what I'm sure is a horrendous time. 

"I walk through this park most days and to know this is going on is concerning. You never know quite what is going to happen.

"Often, I think that people are quite harsh on the police - they cannot be everywhere all at once. They also have limited resources."

She added: "There are so many young students around here as well from Solent University. I imagine many of them go out late drinking which also makes people vulnerable to this sort of crime.

"I think the whole situation is terrible."

Another resident from Southampton, who also wanted to remain unnamed, said: "Things like this do concern me. I have been the victim of a stalker in the past so to know there has been a rape in the city is really troubling for someone like me.

"The lasting impact on the victim is also what is nasty about a crime like that. If your wallet gets pinched you get over it after a while, but this will scar the victim for life."

Cabinet member for Safer City at Southampton City Council, Cllr Christie Lambert, said yesterday: "We are shocked and deeply saddened to hear of the alleged events that took place in one of our parks this morning.

"Rest assured this incident has only worked to strengthen our resolve in tackling violence against the women and girls in our city, and we are working closely with our Safer City Partnership to do all we can to ensure that women feel safe in our public spaces."