UK & World News
Eastbourne Pier Fire Treated As Suspicious
The fire that gutted much of Eastbourne Pier is being treated as suspicious, Sussex Police have said.
"As a result of our investigation we have received information to suggest that the fire may have been started by someone, either deliberately or accidentally, and our investigation is now focusing on that line of enquiry," said Detective Inspector Mark O'Brien.
"A temporary scaffold platform has been erected adjacent to where the fire is thought to have broken out in order to enable scenes of crime officers and fire investigators safe access to the area."
The news came after Prime Minister David Cameron and Chancellor George Osborne visited the resort, pledging £2m to the town to help it recover following the fire on the landmark attraction.
Fire investigators had earlier said they were not sure what caused the fire, indicating it would take some days before they could discover what had happened.
A large part of the 144-year-old Grade II-listed structure was reduced to a skeleton on Wednesday as plumes of smoke rose high into the sky above the resort.
Up to 80 firefighters attended, pumping water on to the burning structure from the coast, the beach and from underneath.
It was eventually brought under control shortly before 8pm, with around 30 firefighters staying at the scene overnight.
On Thursday, local MP Stephen Lloyd said it was possible that the pier could reopen as soon as next year.
"There is real damage but I'm confident that it can be repaired," the LibDem MP said.
"It's very much still standing and I'm very hopeful and confident that it will be reopening next year and be back in business."
Eastbourne is the latest in a series of Victorian piers to suffer major fire damage.
In 2003, the 148-year-old West Pier in Brighton was reduced to a mangled mass of metal by two major fires within two months.
And in Eastbourne's neighbouring town of Hastings, the Grade II-listed pier was almost destroyed in a fire in 2010 following years of neglect.
Southend Pier in Essex was badly damaged by fire in 2005 and Grand Pier in Weston-super-Mare was wrecked by a blaze in 2008.