A fierce fire ripped through Eastbourne Pier as around 60 firefighters battled to save the Victoria landmark from total destruction.

Flames took hold inside the pier on Wednesday afternoon in front of startled sun-seekers on the beach.

Fire engines rushed to the scene after fire began reducing the two-storey building to ashes, with local politicans labelling the incident a "tragedy".

Early reports suggested the source of the blaze was wall panelling in the arcades section of the 1870s building.

The entire roof covering the domed structure was quickly burned off by the fire.

Carolyn Heaps of Eastbourne Borough Council said: "Our first concern is for the safety of all those who work on the pier and those who were visiting the pier today.

"It is tragic to see this much loved Victorian landmark on fire.

"The council is supporting the emergency services as they tackle the fire and in keeping the area around the pier safe."

Eastborne Pier is owned and operated by Cuerden Leisure.