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Blaze at garden centre triggers firework blasts

A major fire has broken out at a garden centre which sells fireworks, causing explosions and fireworks to be set off.

Witnesses have described loud bangs following the blaze which started at the property in Bitterne Road West, Southampton, Hampshire, at about 5am.

Homes and properties within 100 metres (328ft) of the fire at The Flower Factory were evacuated.

More than 70 firefighters in 13 engines and support vehicles have been involved in the fight to bring the blaze under control.

A Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service spokesman said that the fire had not yet been extinguished but was under control and added that no-one had been injured.

He said: "We got called out at 5.09am and properties within 100m of the fire were evacuated. Nobody has been injured.

"The fire is at a garden and flower shop that sells fireworks, it's called The Flower Factory.

"The fire was contained within the business and we managed to protect other businesses in the area.

"Bitterne Road West is likely to be closed until around lunchtime.

"There were 13 engines and other support vehicles. The fire is not out but is under control and the operation is being scaled back."

Chris Nichols posted on Twitter: "Woken up by big bang. Fire on Bitterne Road West, which appears to have hit the firework factory."

Lenny posted: "Woke up to fireworks this morning and thinking who the hell sets them off at 6 in the morning. Turns out the firework factory is on fire!"

South Coast Ambulance Service posted: "Supporting @Hants_fire at major fire at fireworks factory, Bitterne Road West, Southampton Pls avoid area".

A Hampshire police spokesman said: "This is being led by the fire service, we are there supporting them and helping with road closures."

Local resident Ian Sainsbury said: "I was woken soon after five this morning by the sounds of multiple explosions. I looked out the window and saw thick black rancid smoke billowing across the sky out on to the River Itchen.

"Fireworks were shooting out in all directions into the air. It's lucky it doesn't seem to have caught alight the tyre firm that's almost next door or it could have been much worse.

"Fire and police were quickly on the scene.

"My son's school is nearby and that has been closed for the day because of the smoke that was billowing across it."

Bitterne Manor Primary School confirmed it has been forced to close for the day.

A statement posted on the school's website says: "We have been advised to close the school today due to a serious fire in the local area that emergency services are dealing with. We hope that everyone in the community is safe and well."

Becky Hopley posted a video on Twitter which shows fireworks exploding in the sky above the premises.

She wrote: "Woken up by the sound of fireworks to see the firework factory on fire!"

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