Scores of people were evacuated from their homes last night as fire ripped through a derelict pub.

Choking smoke billowed hundreds of feet into the air from the Rivoli, enveloping Worthing town centre.

Police cordoned off surrounding roads and went from house to house urging residents to leave their homes.

One family, celebrating a 21st birthday party, spilled on to the pavement clutching their drinks.

The Rivoli fire was the biggest blaze to hit Worthing since the Warnes Hotel on the seafront was destroyed in the autumn of 1987.

Firefighters were alerted to the blaze at opposite Teville Gate shopping centre, at the junction of Chapel Road and Teville Road, at about 7.20pm.

They arrived to find flames leaping 20ft into the sky.

Early indications suggested the fire began at an MoT testing station behind the Rivoli and quickly spread to the pub.