STAFF and shoppers were evacuated from stores in Poole’s Falkland Square this afternoon, following a security alert.

Police cordoned off part of the square outside WH Smith after reports of a suspicious package, it is believed.

Officers shepherded shoppers away from the area, before a police sniffer dog and handler entered WH Smith to check out the store. The all-clear was given two hours later.

Dorset Police Sgt Iain Fraser said: “At 2.03pm there was a security alert in WH Smith. The area was evacuated and police officers, together with dogs, carried out a search and it was determined there was no cause for concern.”

Sgt Fraser said he couldn’t give the Daily Echo more information about exactly what prompted the alert as officers were still investigating the incident.

WH Smith staff also remained tight-lipped about events leading up to the evacuation.

Staff from Carphone Warehouse and several neighbouring retail units were also asked to vacate their premises.

However, passenger and freight trains continued to be run through the railway crossing, just yards from the cordon.

Around an hour-and-a- half after police were first called, while the safety cordon remained in place, Chief Inspector Ben Hargreaves of Dorset Police confirmed: “At this time there is no reason to suppose there is any cause for concern. Police officers and dog teams are carrying out a search of the area and it is anticipated it will conclude shortly.”

Shopper Mark Williamson, one of scores of people forced to wait until police gave the all-clear, said: “To start with nobody knew what was going on, the police haven’t actually told us anything. I guess they’ve got more important things to concentrate on.

“I was here when it first happened and a woman police officer just told us all to move away because it wasn’t safe to remain in the area.”

Another elderly shopper, who asked not to be named, said: “It takes me back to the 1970s and 80s when we’d have bomb scares all the time.”

The police finally gave the all-clear around 4pm and the square was fully reopened.