PART of a busy shopping precinct in Southampton has been sealed off after a section of building blew down in gale force winds.

The damage came as winds of up to 70mph battered the region causing widespread power cuts across Southampton and other parts of Hampshire.

A 12 foot section of masonry and brickwork including a large cornice bearing the words Market Place fell onto the pavement along Shirley High Street just before 9am today.

Two properties and two flats had been evacuated by the time fire fighters arrived to attempt to make the building safe.

Search and Rescue Teams had already been called to the properties which were affected by the partial collapse above two shops and two flats.

Remarkably no one was injured as a result of the falling masonry that was reported just after 9am.

The owners of one of the businesses affected Gasworks temporarily set up business across the road while structural engineers assessed the extent of the damage.

Bosses arrived at work to find the damage after they were alerted by a neighbouring business.

A spokesman said it was "very fortunate" that no one was at work when part of the building collapsed.

It is understood owners of the other affected business Dainty Tailors are on holiday.

Watch manager Rob Burns said due to the strength of the winds it was not safe for firefighters to attempt to get on the roof to assess the damage.

The area has been sealed off inside a police cordon and it is hoped the fire service will be able to return to the scene later today to see whether any more of the building is in immediate risk of collapse.