16:40 GMT +316 February 2019
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    Summerland was rebuilt on a smaller scale after the fire but it was demolished in 2005 and the site is now derelict

    For Sale: Seaside Resort Where 50 People Died in Horrific Fire 45 Years Ago

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    On August 2, 1973, a fire ripped through the Summerland holiday complex in the Isle of Man, killing 50 people. Sputnik spoke to an estate agent who has the thankless task of trying to sell the eight-acre site.

    Hundreds of people are expected to attend a ceremony on Thursday, August 2, in Douglas, the capital of the Isle of Man, to mark the 45th  anniversary of a terrible fire which ripped through the Summerland complex, killing 50 people.

    Summerland, which opened in 1971, was designed to accommodate 10,000 people and contained a discotheque, restaurants, bars and five floors of amusement arcades and crazy golf designed to keep holidaymakers entertained on wet summer days.  

    The fire broke out just after 7pm and is believed to have been started by three boys from Liverpool who were smoking in a disused kiosk next to the miniature golf course.

    Echoes of Grenfell Tragedy

    When the blazing kiosk collapsed it set fire to a cladding material on the building which was not fire resistant and caught fire rapidly, in a similar way to the Grenfell Tower blaze in London in 2017.

    It took 20 minutes before the fire brigade were called and the authorities were slow to evacuate the 3,000 people who were inside Summerland at the time.

    Holidaymakers watch the Summerland complex go up in flames from the other side of Douglas bay on August 2, 1973
    © Photo : Manx National Heritage
    Holidaymakers watch the Summerland complex go up in flames from the other side of Douglas bay on August 2, 1973

    ​The fierce blaze could be seen for miles around and the toxic smoke claimed most of the lives.

    A smaller scale building was rebuilt on the site three years later but it was largely demolished in 2005.

    ​The island's government has put the site up for sale in the past without finding any takers.

    Any Reasonable Offers Considered

    But David Sharp, from local estate agents Chapmans, said the site had only been on the market with his firm for a few months and there was no guide price.

    "The government is very sensitive to what is going to be proposed for the site so that is more important than the price," Mr. Sharp told Sputnik.

    "There is potential for a variety of uses — residential, leisure or a retirement facility. It's quite close to the beach," Mr. Sharp told Sputnik.

    A glossy brochure about the site is available online. It makes no mention of the fire but stipulates "a purchaser will be expected to incorporate a memorial garden within the design."

    Seeking Closure

    Ruth McQuillan-Wilson, was five at the time of the disaster and suffered horrific burns to the back of her legs and hands, wrote a book about the fire which was published last year.

    "The fire destroyed my life. I'm trying to come to terms with things even now, after all these years. I need to speak to the boys (who inadvertently started the fire) to hear their story….I wonder what paths their lives took after the fire, or if they have been living under the huge black cloud that I have," she told the Liverpool Echo in 2016.

    A public inquiry into the fire blamed the cladding material and the sluggish evacuation of the building
    © Photo : Manx National Heritage
    A public inquiry into the fire blamed the cladding material and the sluggish evacuation of the building

    The Isle of Man, in the Irish Sea, is a dependency of the British Crown, and has its own government with a 1,000-year-old parliament called the Tynwald which is believed to be the oldest in existence.

    The island's economy is based on banking, insurance, shipping and fund administration although recently it has become an international centre for e-gaming and satellite leasing.

    Nowadays tourism makes up only a small percentage of the island's economy but in the 1960s and 1970s, thousands of holidaymakers from Liverpool, Manchester and Belfast would go there on holiday.


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    blaze, summer, tourists, deaths, holiday, fire, Isle of Man, Liverpool