The operators of Cork's Douglas Village Shopping Centre have said that the part of the building that was damaged by fire will have to be demolished for safety reasons as the structural integrity has been compromised.

They said they would not be able to estimate when the centre could reopen until demolition had taken place and that the centre would not be safe until this was done.

It is hoped demolition can begin next week.

At least 60 vehicles were severely damaged in a blaze which broke out on level one of the car park at around 7pm last night.

They said the process of removing customer and staff cars will begin on Wednesday. They said the process would be slow and could take up to seven days.

Independent traders at the centre say they are facing an uncertain future and do not know when they will be able to reopen.

The centre has almost 50 stores and traders and employs hundreds of people.

Multi-national tenants Tesco, Marks and Spencer and TK Maxx are flanked by dozens of independent traders employing, in total, hundreds of people at the centre.

Peter O'Keeffe runs Dennehys Health and Fitness at Douglas Village. The gym employs around 20 people, but he has two other outlets in the city which his 2,000 members in Douglas can use.

Hair and beauty salon owner Leonard Higgins and boutique owner Vicki Creber's only outlets are in the Douglas Village Shopping Centre and both say they are uncertain about when they will reopen.

Gardaí have spoken to the driver of the car which went on fire inside the car park.

It is understood the woman ran to get help, but her car was ablaze when she returned.

Gardaí say they are satisfied there are no suspicious circumstances surrounding the blaze.

This morning, the operators of the centre said they hoped a timeline for reopening would become clear in the next few days when forensic and structural assessments of the site have been carried out.

The centre has set up an information line for motorists who have vehicles trapped inside.

Anyone with a vehicle trapped inside is asked to call 087 9509800.

The centre's manager, Bartosz Mieszala said the ca rpark is critical to the operation of the shopping centre, which has a number of large anchor tenants. 

An investigation into the cause of the blaze is continuing.

Earlier, Acting Chief Fire Officer David Spillet said that it would be a number of days before people could access the building

He said there had been severe damage to part of the structure and many of the vehicles inside the building.

Mr Spillet also said it was one of the biggest fires that had been seen in Cork in recent times and took a dozen units several hours to bring the blaze under control.

The centre was evacuated and no injuries were reported.

Cork City Fire Brigade said it had more than 40 firefighters at the scene.

Additional reporting: Samantha Libreri