Firefighters have evacuated people from properties following the Ocado warehouse fire amid fears of an explosion or a toxic gas leak.
The major fire at the online grocer’s warehouse, which broke out on Tuesday morning, took more than 24 hours to bring under control.
The Walworth industrial estate and nearby homes are being cleared due to the risk of toxins being released or a large cylinder exploding, Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service said.
Around 200 firefighters were drafted in to tackle the blaze at the site in Andover, which started at 2.44am on Tuesday and spread overnight, causing substantial damage.
On Wednesday evening the fire service said properties will be evacuated overnight within a 500-metre exclusion zone and a 1.6km stretch based on wind direction.
A rest centre has been set up at Harrow Way Community School.
Deputy Chief Fire Officer Andy Bowers said: “We have a risk of a toxic release or a large cylinder explosion.
“There is a phased evacuation of Walworth industrial estate taking place as a precaution and a rest centre has been set up.
“We are working extremely closely with all of our partners to keep the public safe.”
Conservative MP for North West Hampshire Kit Malthouse said a number of homes will be evacuated overnight and that alternative accommodation has been provided.
He posted on Facebook: “The fire has come and gone during the day, flaring up at times, and I understand it has recently receeded, however I would urge people nearby to check online for advice.
“This is obviously a terrible event and thankfully no one has been hurt although some firefighters have been treated for smoke inhalation.”
A fire service spokeswoman said around 20 families were currently in the rest centre.
She added that it was a “strong possibility” that those working within the exclusion zone would not have access on Thursday morning.
The fire was declared a major incident as it swept through the Ocado warehouse and locals were urged to keep their windows and doors shut due to the smoke.
Ocado said the fire, which started in a corner of the ambient grid, caused substantial damage to the majority of the building and its contents.
Part of the roof collapsed, but the firm confirmed no members of the Ocado team or the public were injured.
Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service said four firefighters had been treated for slight smoke inhalation.
One local tweeted during the blaze: “Just streets away – the noise, heat, smell and light pouring from the Ocado warehouse is frighteningly real.
“120+ firefighters are risking their lives tackling the blaze. Makes you truly appreciate the brave men and women of the Fire Service!! Thank you. Stay safe.”
Ocado stressed it has comprehensive insurance for the property, stock and equipment and for business interruption losses.
“Once we have had time to assess the damage and prepare a plan to return the CFC (customer fulfilment centre) to operation we will update further as appropriate,” Ocado said.
The online grocer saw its shares tumble by 8% on Wednesday as it said it would see a fall in sales growth until it can shift operations to other warehouses.
Its hi-tech robotic warehouse provides around 10% of Ocado’s warehouse capacity, processing more than 30,000 orders a week.
Ocado said it had been forced to cancel some customer orders because of the fire and it was “working hard to resume normal service as soon as possible”.