Fire crews have spent the night quelling the last of the blaze at the scene of the devastating Eastbourne Pier fire.

As of 6.30am around 20 firefighters were on the scene continuing to damp down the damp down the fire – assisted overnight by lifeboat crews to reach the remaining hotspots.

The huge fire destroyed part of the 144-year-old Grade II-listed structure and sent plumes of black smoke into the sky yesterday afternoon.

It began in an area of the pier housing amusement arcade attractions and came at the height of the all-important summer tourist season for resort.

Up to 80 firefighters tackled the blaze from the coast, the beach and from underneath the Victorian structure, which is privately-owned by Cuerden Leisure.

Embers could still be seen burning some five hours after the fire started. Sussex Police said the pier was quickly evacuated, no one was trapped and the fire was not believed to be suspicious "at this time".

Tourists and locals thronged the beach and promenade to watch the pier gradually become engulfed in flames from around 3pm yesterday.

Although the area was busy at the time, East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service said it was not aware of any injuries or casualties.

The RNLI said lifeboats from Eastbourne, Hastings and Newhaven were sent to the pier to help firefighters tackle the fire.

It was eventually brought under control shortly before 8pm, while around 30 firefighters remained at the scene overnight, the fire service said.

All that remained was a blackened metal carcass on the worst hit area of the pier.

The sea-end section of the structure appeared to be unaffected by the blaze.

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Chief Fire Officer Des Prichard said: "Pier fires are notoriously difficult to fight because there is one way on and one way off - and the tide can caused additional problems.

“The hard work of our firefighters has paid off in that we have been able to save a section of this iconic landmark but I know for the people of Eastbourne, this will still be devastating.

“I would like to thank everyone who has been involved in this operation. We have had great support from other organisations including the RNLI, Coastguard and the police, and our own firefighters were determined to do all they could. We are now investigating the cause of the fire."

“East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service would also like to thank local businesses who offered help during the incident, including the Pier Hotel." 

Yesterday, Mr Prichard said: "This has been an extremely challenging incident. Our firefighters have worked very hard in difficult conditions to stop the fire from spreading.

"Sadly one building on the pier is now a shell and other smaller buildings have been damaged but the remaining buildings on the pier are being protected.

"This couldn't have been achieved without the assistance of a number of other organisations, including the police, Coastguard and RNLI."

"This is obviously an upsetting incident for all those who love this landmark. We are thankful that there are no reported injuries and that firefighting operations continue, to try and ensure we save a large part of this iconic pier".

In a fortnight, Eastbourne hosts its biggest tourist event, the annual Airbourne air show on the seafront, which draws tens of thousands of visitors.

Eastbourne Pier has a large number of attractions, including an arcade, cafe bar, tea rooms and Atlantis nightclub.