CUSTOMERS were evacuated from several shops in Oxford last night after a fire alarm was triggered.

Crowds of confused shoppers were made to exit stores in Magdalen Street at about 8pm, including Tesco and Sainsbury's, as alarm bells rang inside.

One fire engine was parked on the road and firefighters were seen filing into Sainsbury's. 

Simon Belcher of Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service said he understood the incident was a false alarm and the system - which is linked between several shops - had been activated accidentally.

He said this caused 'quite a lot of disruption' but added: "Our crews will have checked the site thoroughly with site staff to make sure that this was the case."

In Debenham's, which was closed by that time, a tannoy announcement repeatedly rung out asking customers to exit.

Both Tesco and Sainsbury's are open as usual today.