AN HISTORIC seafront hotel blew up into an inferno because of a gas leak, investigators say.

Fire crews were called to the grade-II listed Claremont Hotel on Eastbourne seafront in November.

Twelve fire engines were called to the scene as the blaze reached its height, along with other specialist units, police the ambulance service, Eastbourne Borough and East Sussex County Councils.

The road remained closed for months, and the remains of the160-year-old hotel had to be demolished in February following further damage from winter storms.

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Now an investigation by East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service found that a small gas leak caused the main gas main to ignite.

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The gas went up a pipe inside the building, taking flames to all floors inside.

It is understood that the fire started in the basement.

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The building was evacuated, and seven people were treated by ambulance crews including one person who had to be taken to hospital for smoke inhalation.

Days afterwards part of the hotel was seen collapsing, and Grand Parade was shut.

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The hotel was operated by Daish Holidays, and managing director George Brown said the company was "devastated" by the news of the fire.

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Council leader David Tutt and MP Caroline Ansell said the town will rally and bounce back.

Cllr Tutt said: "It was a real shock, the hotel has been standing for 160 years.

“It was upsetting to see such an important part of the heritage of the town and Victorian seafront on fire.

“But a few years ago we dealt with the pier fire, and walking along the seafront now you would not know it had happened.

“Everyone rallied around, the community, councillors, officers, businesses and volunteers.

"There have been lots of improvements in Eastbourne, and I’m sure we will have something return there to become a new focal point on the seafront."