Monday, October 10, 2005

UK - Southend pier "will cost millions to rebuild"

Fire crews were today damping down the scene of Sunday night's blaze which partly destroyed the world's longest pier. The fire, which started at 22:40 UK time [21:40 GMT], was still smouldering on Monday morning and fire fighters were carrying out investigations and damping down. Several businesses were completely destroyed by the fire but no-one was injured. The cause is as yet unclear, but it is believed to be arson.
As the sun rose over the estuary, smoke could still be seen enveloping the pier's end. Many local residents were shocked and saddened as they were greeted with the sight of the famous landmark again devastated by fire. There was an eerie silence on the seafront, the area having been sealed off to traffic. Only an occasional walker disturbed the otherwise deserted streets. Beaches were cordoned off and debris from the pier littered the shore.
At a morning press conference borough council leader Anna Waite said, "We will be looking to restore it to its former glory. It's a very sad day and the pier will cost millions of pounds to rebuild." She added that it was fully insured, and although the cause had not yet been established, suggested a smoking ban on the restored pier.
But any investigation into the cause will not explain the failure to bring the fire under control more quickly. Fire boats were not immediately available and fire fighting was hampered by a lack of water. A sprinkler system was not in place in the bar according to an Essex Fire spokesperson, and there may well be questions over how well the tourist attraction was protected.
For the foreseeable future, Southend will be without its most famous of landmarks. [BBC Essex]
[16:48 GMT 10/10/2005]

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