The British seaside resort of Weston-super-Mare has been dealt a crushing blow after its main tourist attraction, a beautiful historic pier, was destroyed by a fire.
About 30 firefighters were called in to fight the massive blaze, which broke out at around 6:45 am on the part-wooden structure, but there were no immediate reports of any injuries, Avon Fire and Rescue said.
Chief fire officer Kevin Pearson told BBC News that deep-fat fryers were found in the area of the superstructure where they believe the fire started. Initial reports said it spread from its right-side front turret.
The Grand Pier, which opened in 1904 at a time when beach resorts were booming, stretches 400 metres into the Bristol Channel.
The theatre pavillion was previously destroyed by fire in 1930 and rebuilt, opening three years later.
New owner Kerry Michael, who only bought the pier this year with his sister Michelle, was planning to turn it into a premier tourist attraction. It had recently undergone a one-million-pound refurbishment with a new funfair and go-kart track.
It is thought the cost to rebuild the pier would be prohibitive and that only a partial rebuild at best could be hoped for.
Weston-super-Mare is currently undergoing a £28m programme to renovate its seafront. Like many British seaside town is has become a victim of cheap foreign holidays and is a shadow of its former self.
Jeannette James, owner of The Beach Bistro, said: “It’s absolutely devastating. If it goes, Weston will have nothing. We have had so much go from this town already. Without the pier I don’t think Weston can survive. We are very, very deeply concerned about it.”