High-resolution images to aid Hastings Pier restoration

Hastings Pier after the fire The blaze, which began in the early hours of 5 October 2010, took crews four days to put out

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High-resolution photographs of Hastings Pier taken before and after it was hit by a devastating fire could prove "invaluable", scientists have said.

The panoramic pictures are up to 400 times more detailed than a photograph taken on a standard camera phone.

Experts at the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) are using the images to analyse how the pier structure has changed and how it can be restored.

They have already shown the pier's cast iron framework is largely unchanged.

'Lucky' start

Before the fire last October, NPL had started surveying the pier as part of redevelopment plans and had taken the first set of images as part of work to monitor long-term changes to the pier.

Principal research scientist Nick McCormick said: "It was fortunate that we began the project before the fire, as the results will be invaluable in regenerating the pier when restoration funding is secured."

He said the team had been using a technique called Digital Image Correlation.

Hastings Pier after the fire The fire caused severe damage and left large visual changes

They were applying it to civil engineering work by taking images of buildings at different times to identify large structural changes over time.

The first set of pictures were taken in July 2010 and the next set were not due to be taken until this month, but scientists returned to the pier after the fire to capture the damage.

Mr McCormick said the results had been "very positive".

The pier's super-structure had been severely damaged with large visual changes.

But the cast iron work, or sub-structure, seemed much less affected, he said.

The area showing the most distortion - probably caused by the extreme heat - was at a downwind point where the fire was said to be at its fiercest.

The blaze, in the early hours of 5 October, took four days to put out and destroyed 95% of the upper part of the East Sussex pier.

Two men, both aged 19 and from St Leonards, have been arrested on suspicion of arson and have had their bail extended until 23 April.

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