A SHOPPING centre was evacuated after a fire in an underground car park.

Fire crews were called to the Eastgate Centre, in Southernhay, Basildon, just after 2pm.

A car was found to be on fire in the underground car park. It was extinguished by 2.25pm but the centre had to be evacuated in the meantime.

Mark Saunders, from Basildon, was shopping at the centre at the time.

He said: “There was a high-pitched pitch alarm. We looked at the staff .The staff looked at each other.

“Then over the intercom someone said: ‘This is not a drill there is a fire. Please leave the shop by the nearest fire exit.’ “Once we were all out the shutters went down . I went down to the underground car park and could see the fire brigade there tackling a car on fire in the car park under the shop.

“They took control quickly and the shop got back to normal.”

A fire service spokesman said the fire was not suspicious.

He said: “Two crews from Basildon were called to a car on fire in an underground car park in Southernhay, Basildon at 2.06pm.

“The cause has been recorded as accidental and is thought to have started after the engine malfunctioned.

“The car is 100 per cent fire damaged and surrounding vehicles suffered light smoke damage.”