28/07/2008

Fire Ravages 'Heartbeat' Of Weston-Super-Mare

A huge blaze has swept through the historic pier at the Somerset seaside resort of Weston-super-Mare.

Thirty firefighters fought to tackle flames and thick black smoke at 7am after being alerted of a blaze at 6.45am.

An Avon Fire and Rescue Service spokesperson said there are no reports of any injuries.

Weston-super-Mare Mayor Andrew Horler said: "It's a scene of pure devastation.

"This is a real blow, the pier is the very heartbeat of this town and now it's destroyed.

"I really, really hope it can be rebuilt – it's pure devastation for the town."

Dee Williams, Deputy Manager of the Grand Atlantic Hotel, which is just 200 yards from the inferno said "there will be no pier by midnight".

Jacquie Whelan, owner of Sunfold Hotel on Beach Road said "it's the most horrendous thing" and "there are massive red flames, hundreds of feet in the air, all over the pier".

Police have placed a cordon around the pier and beach and people are being advised to avoid the area.

It is reported that the smoke and flames can be seen from as far away as Cardiff.

Stephanie Mounsey, from Avon Fire and Rescue said the pier, which is supported by iron girders "was not at risk of collapse".

"There is plenty of water on it and things look like they are getting under control.

"We believe the foundations should be safe," she said.

The pier, which stretches a quarter-of-a-mile, and attracts thousands of tourists, reopened in April after a massive revamp.

It was owned by the Brenner family for three generations and has only changed hands three times since it opened in 1904.

Earlier this year, it was sold in a multi-million pound deal to Michelle and Kerry Michael.

The brother and sister team had spent thousands of pounds as part of a regeneration of the site, including a new funfair and go-kart track.

It is understood Mr Michael, who had been holidaying in Spain is on his way back to inspect the damage.

The cause of the fire is still being investigated.

(DS)

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