Fire-fighters said a fire which resulted in hundreds of workers and shoppers being evacuated from Lisnagelvin Shopping Centre on Friday morning was caused by an electrical fault.
Those who were inside the affected stores described a burnt smell before the evacuation procedures were enacted.
Some said they were initially told that everything was OK, just before being ordered to evacuate the building.
Several shoppers described having to abandon baskets and trolleys full of shopping, while others said it took some persuasion to get some fellow customers out.
Billy Rutherford from the Irish Street area, who visits the centre to meet up with friends most Fridays, said he had never experienced anything like this before at Lisnagelvin.
Catherine McCarron from Ballyarnett was shopping in Tesco when the alarm was raised. She said: “I’d been in a wee while and the fire alarm was going off. Initially people were saying everything was OK and then the next minute we were evacuated.
“I had a full shopping trolley with bags and it’s sitting in there. I’d just finished shopping.”
Richard Hamilton from Kix e-cigarette stall said: “The fire alarm went off and the fire brigade came and then Tesco’s cafe got shut down and then we got evacuated. That was it really.”
Staff at Tescos, Primark and the other stores were praised for helping people from the centre during the alert, which lasted over an hour and ended shortly after 12.30pm.
One man from County Derry, who asked not to be named, said: “I was in the Pound shop and you could smell it, you thought somebody had just burnt their dinner, like burnt fishfingers or something. I bought my stuff and I just came out and went into Tesco’s and did my shopping and they had actually announced over the tannoy saying we had to evacuate, leave your baskets and make your way out.
“The staff were really good, they got everybody out quickly enough. They were really, really good, even though there was some customers complaining, and obviously the procedures is there in place for health and safety.”
Speaking to the Journal at the scene, local Fire and Rescue Service Station Commander Kieran Doherty said: “We had a small electrical fire confined to the roof-space of a suspended ceiling in the shared facility of the Tesco cafe and the Pound Shop.
“Once we located it, it was easy enough extinguished with CO2 extinguisher two fire fighters wearing breathing apparatus.”
He added that the centre was evacuated “as a precautionary measure” because of the smoke.
Mr Doherty said that the cause of the fire had been an electrical fault.
A spokesowman for the F&RS said two appliances from Crescent Link Fire Station and a third from Northland Fire Station attended the fire.