In pictures: Eastbourne Pier fire

A fire has ripped through part of Eastbourne Pier, completely destroying a section of the roof.

The blaze began in a part of the Victorian structure housing an amusement arcade. A section of the pier became engulfed in flames as the fire spread during the afternoon.

East Sussex Fire and Rescue said about 80 firefighters had been sent to the scene of the blaze. The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) sent lifeboats from neighbouring towns.

Image copyright EPA

Eyewitnesses said the fire, which started at the promenade end of the 144-year-old pier, appeared not to have affected the sea end of the Grade II listed structure.

Image copyright Chris Weston

Tourists and locals thronged the beach and promenade to watch the pier gradually become engulfed in flames. The fire service said the blaze was "being brought under control" shortly before 20:00 BST.

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Sussex Police said the 1,000ft-long (304m) pier had been quickly evacuated, that no-one was trapped and the fire was not believed to be suspicious "at this time".

Image copyright Eddie Mitchell

Lifeboats from Eastbourne, Hastings and Newhaven were launched in case anyone had jumped off the pier as the fire took hold. The crews were also on hand to help the fire service, an RNLI spokesman said.

Image copyright @SAGordonM

Eastbourne is due to host its biggest tourist event, the annual Airbourne air show on the seafront, which draws tens of thousands of visitors from 14 August.

Image copyright Getty Images

Eastbourne Borough Council described the blaze as "tragic", while Carolyn Heaps, cabinet member for tourism at the council, said: "Our first concern is for the safety of all those who work on the pier and those who were visiting the pier today."

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The town's MP, Stephen Lloyd, said: "I've spoken with the chief inspector, but as far as I know there are no injuries, no fatalities, at the minute but clearly this is a real blow and it couldn't come at a worst time frankly as we go into the summer season."

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David Tutt, the leader of Eastbourne Borough Council, praised the emergency services, saying they had managed to contain the fire to the front dome "so there's hope of getting the pier restored".

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Fire Minister Penny Mordaunt said it was "heart-breaking to see such a wonderful Victorian pier so damaged". She said she would visit Eastbourne "as a priority".

Image copyright Reuters

Eastbourne Pier includes an amusement arcade, the Waterfront Cafe Bar, Victorian tea rooms, a nightclub and is also a wedding venue, catering for up to 180 guests.

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