A devastating fire has torn through Eastbourne Pier. The main roof of the pier, built in the East Sussex seaside town in the 1870s, has been completely destroyed, leaving only a metal skeleton.
The pier was evacuated. No-one was injured in the fire and police said it was not thought to be suspicious. The fire service said late on Wednesday the incident was being scaled down and 30 firefighters were expected to stay at the scene overnight.
Eastbourne Borough Council leader David Tutt said he was hopeful the pier could be repaired and understood the fire had been started by an electrical fault.
“The emergency services have done a fantastic job,” he said. “The fact that as far as we’re aware that nobody’s hurt – we’re not aware of anybody unaccounted for – they evacuated the site very quickly and they’ve managed to contain it to that front dome so there’s hope of getting the pier restored.
“The building which has been affected is the largest dome on the pier, and it has been badly damaged – but further down it looks as it’s always looked.
“My understanding… [is] it looks as if there was a problem with electrics in the wall of the dome between the two layers of the wall there and that seems to be where it started.”
The blaze broke out behind some wood panelling in the arcade building and billowing smoke filled the air.
Sian Ellis, a hotel manager in the town, said it was an “absolute red, molten, mess of flame and smoke”. “We’ve just had another explosion there and it’s very, very frightening and hugely saddening for the whole of the town,” she said.
Fire minister Penny Mordaunt said she would be visiting Eastbourne “as a priority” to speak to local people and thank firefighters for their efforts.
“It is heart-breaking to see such a wonderful Victorian pier so damaged. Thankfully no-one appears to have been hurt,” she said.
About 80 firefighters had tackled the blaze in the privately-owned pier, East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service said.
A fire service spokesman said at one stage: “Firefighters are using lifeboats to help tackle the fire from the sea and an aerial platform is being used as a water tower to prevent the fire from spreading on the shore side.”
He said crews had gone onto the pier from the seaward end to stop the fire spreading further along the structure.