Shoppers fled as staff evacuated the Safeway store at the top of the Lion and Lamb Yard, Farnham, after the call came at 10.50am on Monday warning that a chemical device would explode in five hours time.

Four police officers with dogs arrived at the store immediately and conducted a search of the premises although nothing was found.

Two other shops in Farnham — Sainsbury’s in South Street and Elphicks department store in West Street were also victims of the hoax calls and both reported them to police.

“Safeway took the decision to close the store and continue the search with police and staff,” said a police spokeswoman.

“Sainsbury’s and Elphicks department store were also told they had bombs on their premises and officers searched their shops as well.

“Nothing was found at any of the stores and we are actively investigating the telephone calls which were made in succession of each other.”

Out of the three stores, Safeway was the only one to remain closed while the search was carried out.

One staff member who was present said: “We had to go round our separate departments looking for suspicious objects. It was a bit worrying.

“The police thought it was a hoax but at the time we didn’t know for sure. A device could have been hidden anywhere in the store.

“It seemed a bit strange that we were told to look for something — I think the staff should have been evacuated as well.

“We were all pretty apprehensive when it came to 3.30 which was the time that the ‘bomb’ was due to go off so some of the staff went to the car park just in case.

“It’s a bit sick that someone made a hoax call about chemical bombs when there is so much worry over possible terror attacks.

“At the moment it seem as though anything could happen.”

Police are now using specialist equipment to trace the calls made to the stores.

“It is a serious thing for someone to do,” said the police spokeswoman.

“It creates a huge amount of disruption to staff and shoppers and requires a lot of manpower from the police.”

Sainsbury’s or Elphicks chose not to evacuate shoppers from their stores after initial police checks showed the shops to be clear of any suspicious devices.

Police officers were at Safeway for around two hours and spent just over an hour at Sainsbury’s.

The Farnham Safeway’s store refused to comment on the bomb scare, although a statement from their press office read: “Safeway received a security threat on Monday February 10.

“Customers were asked to evacuate the store, and it was closed while a thorough search was carried out as a precautionary measure.

“Following this the store was declared safe.

“Safeway had co-operated with the police and acted on their advice.

“Employees were also given the option to leave the store.”