Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 20 August 2014

Teenagers quizzed over pier blaze

Hastings Pier on fire as seen from an RNLI boat
Firefighters aboard an RNLI boat fight the fire on Hastings Pier
Two people were arrested on suspicion of arson after the Victorian pier in Hastings was severely damaged by fire

Two teenagers are being quizzed by police after a landmark Victorian pier was ravaged by fire.

Up to 95% of Hastings Pier was destroyed as emergency services struggled to get the blaze under control in the early hours.

Sussex Police said two males, aged 18 and 19, both from nearby St Leonards, were arrested on the seafront shortly after the fire broke out and are being quizzed about the cause of the blaze.

The alarm was raised at around 1am by a member of the public who told two patrolling police officers that the pier, which has been closed since 2006, was alight.

At its height around 55 firefighters with eight engines were fighting to extinguish the blaze, East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service said.

The crews were transported by RNLI lifeboats to attempt to fight the fire from the sea as the pier itself was too unstable, and they were also hampered by bad weather blowing the flames towards the town. There were no reports of any injuries.

Campaigners who had been battling to restore the derelict pier to its former glory vowed to not give up hope that what remains of it may still be salvaged.

A statement from the council said: "Hastings Borough Council and the Hastings Pier and White Rock Trust have vowed not to give up hope. While it's still too early to find out the extent of the damage to the Victorian structure, both bodies have given their support to a full survey to find out if anything of it can be saved."

Council leader Jeremy Birch said surveyors may be able to tell whether the pier can be salvaged in as little as two months. He said he had "no idea" whether it was insured as its "totally absentee owner", the Panamanian-registered Ravenclaw, had not been in touch for a number of years.

The council was in the process of taking over the pier in a compulsory purchase following pressure from the trust and, after a study this summer, showed it could be made safe for £3 million.

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