Eastbourne Pier has been evacuated after a fire broke out this afternoon.
Up to 60 firefighters, as well as police, coastguard and a lifeboat crew, rushed to the scene after the blaze broke out in the arcade building.
According to East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service, the fire is believed to have started at about 3.15pm behind some wood panelling, and has engulfed a two-storey building on the pier around 50 metres from the shoreline.
Sian Ellis, a hotel manager in the town, told the BBC the pier was an ‘absolute red, molten, mess of flame and smoke’, adding:
‘It’s hugely saddening for the whole of the town.’
Witnesses say the fire has ripped through the amusement arcade and has jumped on to the small shops further along the pier.
Councillor Philip Ede, from Eastbourne Borough Council, said:
‘It looks pretty drastic from where I’m standing.
‘We pray the fire brigade can save as much of the building as possible.’
Twitter users expressed their sadness at the news.
Actually hurts my heart a bit that eastbourne pier is on fire.—
Chloe Shine (@Chloeshine) July 30, 2014
The iconic pier was built in 1870, and has a number of cafes and bars as well as a nightclub.
The fire follows others similar instances at Hastings Pier, was almost entirely destroyed by a fire in 2010, and at West Pier in Brighton, which was burned down in 2003.