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Fire destroys Best Western Hotel in Falmouth

media captionThe roof of the hotel, which is operated by Best Western, collapsed

A major fire has destroyed a seafront hotel in Cornwall.

More than 100 firefighters tackled the blaze at the Best Western Falmouth Beach Hotel, at Gyllyngvase in Falmouth which started just after 12:00 BST.

Staff and guests, including Blur guitarist Graham Coxon, were moved to safety and a neighbouring hotel was evacuated.

Strong winds fanned the flames, allowing the fire to spread and causing the roof to collapse. No-one was hurt.

Three guests are unaccounted for, but it is believed they were on day trips and not in the hotel when the fire started.

'Rather sad'

A statement from Devon and Cornwall Police said: "There is nothing at this stage to suggest these guests have come to any harm, and it is likely they have gone out on day trips, but police would like these individuals to make themselves known to officers at the scene or to call police on 101 to confirm they are safe and well."

On his Twitter page, musician Coxon, who is performing at the town's Princess Pavilion, said: "We have rooms at the beach hotel and had to leave."

He later added: "We watched it... We had to leave the foyer and then watch it get worse and worse... rather sad."

image captionMusician Graham Coxon was in the hotel when the fire broke out

A helicopter from RNAS Culdrose was used to view the state of the building from above.

The fire started on the third floor of the four-storey property, but has spread throughout. Des Tidbury, Cornwall's chief fire officer, said the ferocity of the wind had made fighting the blaze "challenging".

Not only was it fanning the flames, but water being directed onto the fire by crews on the aerial ladders was being blown away from the building, meaning the platforms had to be continually relocated.

He said the hotel building had many "nooks and crannies" and it would be many hours before the fire was extinguished.

The cause of the blaze is not known.

The 120-bedroom hotel, which is one of the biggest in the town, was opened by the Evans family in 1984 and became part of the Best Western Group in 2000.

media captionFalmouth resident Martin Perrett filmed a Navy Search and Rescue helicopter landing on the beach

The mayor of Falmouth, Geoffrey Evans, described the fire as "absolutely horrendous", adding that it "couldn't have happened at a worse time".

"It's right at the start of the holiday season, we've got the Olympic Torch coming in a few weeks, and the Finn Cup (sailing competition) as well, so I don't know how this is going to affect accommodation," Mr Evans said.

"I think the hotel was fully booked, so to lose such a prominent hotel at this time of the year is a complete disaster.

"The smoke's going right through the town and the fire has spread and completely gutted one side of the hotel.

"It's unbelievable and absolutely horrendous."

Surrounding roads have been closed due to the fire.

Best Western said two coach loads of guests were due to arrive at Falmouth Beach later, but alternative accommodation has been found for them and other guests who are booked at the hotel this week.

'All gone now'

A Best Western spokeswoman was unable to confirm how many employees worked at the hotel or what would happen to their jobs.

Eyewitness Sophie Sweatman, who lives nearby, said: "The smoke cloud is heading in a north-westerly direction straight towards my house. It's been getting thicker and thicker.

"The whole right-hand side of the hotel has burnt down - the left-hand side has been on fire for three or four hours and they can't really attack those flames with a hose.

"This is a very busy beach, a very prominent promenade, with a lot of houses nearby.

"My parents stayed at the hotel back in November. We used to go to the hotel spa a lot - it's all gone now."

image captionThe fire started on the third floor of the four-storey hotel just after 12:00 BST