UK & World News

  • 30 July 2014, 20:29

Eastbourne Pier Gutted As Arcade Catches Fire

A "devastating" fire has destroyed part of Eastbourne Pier after an arcade caught light at the popular seaside resort.

Up to 80 firefighters battled the blaze from the coast, the beach and from underneath the Victorian structure to bring it under control.

Police evacuated scores of tourists and beachgoers from the attraction, while lifeboats were launched amid reports some people may have leapt from the pier into the sea.

The emergency services were alerted to the blaze at around 3.15pm when a small fire in the wall panelling of an arcade took hold and quickly spread across the two-storey main building at the front of the pier.

Dramatic footage and images taken by onlookers from the beach and promenade showed the pier's wooden roof and timber structure entirely consumed by giant flames, as huge plumes of black smoke leapt hundreds of feet into the air.

All that remained was the metal carcass of the building.

Dave Clarke, who was buying his son an ice cream when he spotted the blaze, told Sky News: "The front of the pier is totally alight.

"Smoke is going hundreds of feet into the air and is being blown down the beach.

"There are helicopters overhead and they have closed the roads off down here.

"There are lifeboats to make sure there is nobody stuck at the end of the pier."

He added: "People are relatively calm, but shocked."

Chris Caulfield, a hotel owner in the area, said: "It is one of the biggest attractions in Eastbourne.

"It is such a shame that this has happened. It is shocking."

She said the pier was "exceptionally maintained" and "vital" to businesses in the area.

"People of all ages went onto that pier. It is just going to be devastating for our town when this is gone.

"It is iconic, It's been used in many films and adverts, people have been married on there as well, So there's a lot of history gone and we'll never get that back," she added.

Eastbourne MP Stephen Lloyd, who's office is situated near the attraction, said he hoped the pier, which opened in 1870, was "rescuable".

"There is a nightclub at the end of the pier. There can sometimes be upwards of 700-800 young people there. Thankfully this has not happened at night, but obviously we are looking at a disaster here," said the Liberal Democrat.

"We are praying the fire can be put out before too much damage is done," he added.

Eastbourne Borough Council said in a statement: "It is tragic to see this much-loved Victorian landmark on fire."

Cuerden Leisure, owners of the pier, said its general manager was "on site attending to matters with the fire brigade".

Sussex Police said no one appeared to be trapped on the pier, adding they were not treating the blaze as suspicious.

It is not the first pier to suffer from a blaze. Hastings Pier was almost totally destroyed by fire in 2010, and the Grand Pier in Weston-super-Mare was badly damaged by a blaze in 2008.

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