STORES and restaurants in Christchurch were forced to close on Thursday following stormy weather and torrential rain.

McDonald's, Aldi and Lidl in Somerford Road all shut as downpours hit localised parts of the conurbation.

The M&S food store in High Street was closed due to "heavy flooding" after the area was battered by a bout of extreme weather.

At Aldi three staff members were stood outside the shop preventing customers from entering following the sudden closure.

Through the large windows at the front of the store, debris could be seen on the floor as well as wires hanging down from the ceiling. Some of the checkouts still had shopping on them.

Bournemouth Echo: Aldi has closed due to damage caused by heavy rainAldi has closed due to damage caused by heavy rain

An Aldi spokesperson said: “Like other retailers, we have temporarily closed our store in Meteor Shopping Park, Christchurch, due to storm damage. The store was safely evacuated and we will keep customers updated on when it will reopen.”

Further down Somerford Road, a fire crew was in the car park of McDonald's, with restaurant staff also gathered outside.

A McDonald’s spokesperson: "Our Christchurch restaurant was affected by the bad weather earlier this afternoon and was closed around 2pm due to the gutters being overwhelmed. We are working to re-open the restaurant as soon as possible."

There were no lights on in the premises but no signs of visible damage from the exterior.

A Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service spokeswoman said: "A crew from Christchurch were called to an incident outside McDonald’s on Somerford Road, Christchurch at 3.01pm this afternoon.

"Firefighters found a manhole cover issuing with smoke so have cordoned off the area to make it safe and are currently stood by with CO2 extinguishers."

Next door at Lidl a sign had been placed on the door, which said: "Due to unforeseen circumstances, it's with regret we have had to close.

"We are reopening tomorrow. Sorry for any inconvenience."

Staff in the town centre M&S store could be seen restocking shelves, however, the retailer's doors were locked shut.

A sign on the door said: "We would like to apologise for the closure of this store today.

"We have had an issue with flooding due to the heavy rain."

An M&S spokesperson said: "As a result of the storm this afternoon, we had to temporarily close our store to ensure that it was safe for our customers and colleagues. The store has now reopened and we apologise for any inconvenience caused."