Hastings pier destroyed by fire

Two men arrested on suspicion of arson after 95% of Victorian pier burnt down in major blaze

Two men have been arrested on suspicion of arson after Hastings pier burned down in a "major blaze" that started in the early hours of this morning.

The fire, which was reported at around 1am, destroyed 95% of the structure, East Sussex fire and rescue service said. Amateur footage of the blaze uploaded to YouTube showed the Victorian pier engulfed in flames several metres high.

Speaking at 3.35am as the fire continued behind him, the leader of local borough council, Jeremy Birch, described the blaze as "terrible" and said firefighters could not get on to the structure to put it out. "Hopefully we will have something left that is saveable," he told YouTube user MagikMe.

In a statement later, Birch said the council would be assessing the damage. "The firefighters have worked heroically to try and contain the blaze but unfortunately because of the wind, the state of the pier and the danger of going on it, the fire really took hold," he said.

Sussex police said two men from St Leonards, aged 18 and 19, had been detained and were being questioned about the cause of the fire on the pier, which has been closed since 2006.

Firefighters with eight fire engines were trying to extinguish the blaze, the fire service said. By dawn the fire appeared under control, with the pier reduced to a smouldering wreck. There were no reports of any injuries.

Simon Rose, spokesman for East Sussex fire and rescue service, described the fire as a "major blaze".

"At the moment about 95% of the structure has been destroyed. It's quite significant.

"The priority for the firefighters is to preserve as much of the structure as they can to see if something can be done with it in the future."

Campaigners in Hastings have been trying to raise money and support to refurbish the pier with modern attractions. The Hastings Pier and White Rock Trust was hoping to secure community ownership of the pier.

Designed by Eugenius Birch, it opened in 1872 and was originally 277 metres (910ft) long.

On a "Save Hastings Pier!" Facebook page, members reacted with shock to the blaze. Robbie Clark wrote: "It's so wrong!", while Martyn Reed, from Hastings, said: "Can't believe the pier's been burnt down!!!!"

Dale Turner, who runs the Seaspray bed and breakfast opposite the pier, criticised authorities for failing to get a compulsory purchase order through.

"This is the sort of thing people were worried about. The pier had been allowed to fall into ruin and now we may never get it back," he said.


Matthew Weaver and agencies

The GuardianTramp

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