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Tuesday, November 24, 1998 Published at 15:37 GMT


Fire rips through hotel

The top two floors of the Royal Albion Hotel have been destroyed

A major fire has destroyed part of an historic hotel in Brighton.

More than 70 firefighters and 16 fire engines were deployed to tackle the blaze, which ripped though the Royal Albion Hotel on Brighton's seafront.

About 160 guests and staff now have been evacuated safely and accounted for. There were no casualties.

[ image: A major firefighting operation took place]
A major firefighting operation took place
A spokesman for Brighton and Hove Council said that the fire broke out in a ground-floor kitchen and spread by a vent up to the sixth floor into the bedrooms.

Flames could be seen from the roof as smoke spread across Brighton from the 151-room hotel, which was built in 1826.

One guest, Tom Grinyer, described how he just had time to change into jeans and a T-shirt when awoken by the fire alarm at 8.20am.

"The moment I opened the bedroom door, I could smell smoke and there were fire engines on the scene very quickly so I knew it was serious."

"The wind was blowing a gale which obviously helped to fan the flames."

Guests were taken to the nearby Thistle Hotel, and arrangements were being made to accommodate them there.

They lost most of their possessions in the fire and were promised emergency handouts of money by the hotel management so they could buy clothes.

[ image: Crowds looked on in amazement]
Crowds looked on in amazement
Many of the guests were delegates who had come to Brighton to attend the Public and Commercial Services Union conference.

This was later cancelled because of the disruption caused by the fire.

The town centre was also brought to a standstill.

Surrounding roads were closed and the entire area full of smoke and ash falling from the roof.

At one point, fire crews were pumping seawater from the nearby beach as part of their efforts to bring the flames under control.

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